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Oh Lord, Oh Lord, what do I do? (I’ve fallen for someone who’s nothing like you)

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Then

Steve’s in a closet. His heart’s jackhammering out of his sternum inch by inch, tears are streaming from his eyes and his bloody knuckles are smearing sticky, wet blood on the floor. He’s trembling. God, he’s never been so scared. Fear grips at his heart with clawed fingers, teasingly digging into the flesh until he’s left gasping.

Footsteps. He stops breathing. His heart’s beating so loudly that he’s sure whoever’s in the room can hear it. He’s done. He’s done for! He closes his eyes, still trembling as the person walks into the room. Don’t make a move, don’t make a move, don’t make a move. He can see the outline of the person through a tiny sliver between the closet’s sliding door and threshold. There’s a man with a bunny mask on. The bunny is colored up like a zebra and there’s a splash of blood across the face. Steve swallows. That’s one of his friends’ blood. He’s heard some of their screams. He’s such a coward, hiding in a closet when his friends are being hurt. Getting killed.

Sharon was shrilling. He hasn’t heard her scream in a long time. He fears— he fears she may be gone. He doesn’t know why these people are here, what him and his friends did to deserve this, or how even this group of psychopaths even found the lake house. They’re here now.

Steve had heard the muffled screams as Harry was drowned in the water. He’d heard the squishy sounds of organs spilling to the ground before they pushed Harry’s face beneath the surface. That’s when Steve lost it. That’s when he decided to hide in a closet. He’d tried to be brave up to then. It wasn’t like he was going to stay hidden forever. He just needed a plan. Once he had a plan to save his friends, he’d come out swinging and take them all down. He’s never won a fight before. That thought tugs on his heart and he bites the inside of his cheek.

God, God help us. Please God help…please…

“What’re you doing?” a woman’s voice asks. Steve’s eyes widen, but he remains still, staring at the shadow that’s lingering in the room.

“There’s a fourth one,” the male says. His voice is gruff, like he smokes at least two packs of cigarettes a day. “A blond.”

“Female?”

Steve winces.

“Male.”

Steve’s shoulders slump. He barely knocks into a hanging shirt and has to bite his tongue so hard he tastes blood. If he screams, it’s all over. He can’t take two of them on at the same time. He’s not even sure he can take any of them on. The zebra-bunny mask guy is big. The girl is fucking batshit insane. Steve saw the way she’d pulled Harry’s intestines out and wrapped them around his neck as they held his head under the water. Steve’s not sure if he died from the water or the wound. He hopes Harry didn’t suffer. None of these people deserve to suffer— except the psychopaths. Steve’s too scared to come out from his hiding spot to even try right now though. He never thought he’d be this scared. These people are murderers. Steve’s never met psychopathic murderers before. He’s picked many fights but he never thought he’d leave one dead.

He sucks in the tiniest breath. He barely feels like he’s even breathing. God, his heart’s so loud! How are they not hearing it? It’s pounding in his ear like a gong and it’s only getting worse. He’s exhausted. He wants to lie down and sleep. If he can’t save his friends, maybe death won’t be so bad. He’ll at least get to sleep.

“If one’s loose, then why’re you just standing there in the middle of the room?” the female asks.

Bunny-mask turns to her, and Steve’s pretty sure he’s scoffing. “I’m lookin’ around.”

“The closet. They always hide in the closet.”

Steve starts shaking violently, whimpers escaping his throat before he even has a chance to catch them. They can hear him and they know.

The female pulls open the closet, smiling sinisterly at him. She’s not wearing a mask. She’d be beautiful except for the murder and torture bits— blood red hair and green eyes. “Well hello there pretty boy.”

Steve swallows, his chest heaving. He tries to shrink back into the closet but his shoulders are so broad that he just knocks a pair of shoes down.

“You’re so pretty,” she croons. She crouches down, reaching a hand out like she’s calling a cat to her. “C’mere— I’ll be gentle with that pretty face.”

“Nat,” the bunny-mask says. He shoves the mask up and Steve sees a web of thick scarring on the side of his face. “Don’t lie to ‘im.”

Nat smiles. “Oh— he’s gonna wanna see you. You’re so damn pretty.”


Now

Steve stares at himself in the mirror. It’s always sort of a strange feeling, staring at a person he didn’t initially know growing up. He knew, deep down, he knew. But he didn’t know this is what he’d become. He tried to shake it off, make the feelings go away or pretend he was just like any other kid trying to figure out who they were. He turns sideways, staring at his chest. He’s not flat— muscle clings to his body in ways he’d never expected. He didn’t expect his treatment would do this. He's not upset about it though. He likes the body he has now. But he always finds himself staring, like he's waiting for something to backfire...

“Stop that,” a voice says.

He turns and sees Bucky at the doorway. The man’s clinging to the threshold like a child clings to a parent. His head’s hung low and his eyes are heavy with dark bags.

“When’s the last time you slept?” Steve asks.

Bucky shrugs. “Get away from the mirror, Steve.”

Steve frowns. “You don’t tell me what to do.”

Bucky bites his lip. He kicks at the door frame lightly and Steve’s anger goes away. He knows Bucky’s only trying to help. Bucky’s never been the most tactful. His words are as sharp as the knife he keeps in his back pocket, but they’re laced with good intentions. He’s learning and most importantly, he knows and it doesn’t bother him at all. In some kind of fucked up way, Steve’s glad it all happened. He’s glad he met Bucky on that terrible night.

“I made dinner.” Bucky’s voice is so quiet that Steve has to strain to listen. “If you want it.”

“Have you eaten yet?” Steve looks back at the mirror again, looking at his jawline, the light glinting off the stubble on his face. He still can’t really grow a beard, but it’s nice to see the little hairs at least trying.

“Steve,” Bucky says, slipping into their cramped bathroom. He snakes his hands around Steve’s waist and presses a kiss to Steve’s forehead. “You’re beautiful.”

Steve smiles, dropping his head to Bucky’s shoulder. He likes when Bucky gets like this. Bucky’s not the most affectionate person. Sometimes it’s hard for him to speak or behave— well— like normal. But Bucky’s always been good at telling Steve he’s worth existing. Somehow through everything Steve’s been through, Bucky thought he was worth saving. Steve wouldn’t be here to reminisce if Bucky didn’t think he was worth something.

“Eat with me?” Steve asks. “When’s the last time you ate something?”

Bucky chews his bottom lip. “M’fine.”

“Please, Buck?” Steve cups Bucky’s face. “Just a nibble on somethin’.”

Bucky sighs. He pulls away, scratching at the stubble that grows with ease on his face. Bucky can grow a beard. Steve doesn’t exactly like him sporting one though, so it’s usually kept to the perpetual five o’clock shadow look that Bucky can’t remove to save his life. It feels good between Steve’s thighs and Bucky likes pleasing Steve.

“Kitchen?” Steve grabs Bucky’s hand, gently tugging him away from the bathroom and down the dark hallway. He motions for Bucky to sit at one of their mismatched wooden chairs and then goes to get the plates. Bucky made noodles in olive oil, chopped up zucchini, cherry tomatoes (yum) and—

“Buck?”

Bucky turns around, watching.

“What’s this?” Steve stabs at the purpling meat and shows it off.

Bucky shrinks back. “You need protein. Guys your size gotta eat it.”

“What— is it?” Steve feels a tiny little tug at the back of his neck. It’s that shadow that lingers behind him, the one he carries every day. It’s full of guilt for the lives he couldn’t save. It’s always growing as more and more lives slip from this world at the hands of the people he now calls friends. It’s funny, in that cringeworthy way— they certainly didn’t start out as friends, more like predator and prey.

There’s a knock at the door. Steve clicks his tongue and sets the mystery meat down. “We’re not done.” He points at Bucky accusingly before moving to the front room. He opens the door a crack, seeing a shock of red hair under the harsh yellow porchlight.

“Hey pretty boy,” Natasha says. She leans against the doorframe, crossing her arms. “You’re gettin’ big.”

“I’m working out.”

She growls approvingly, raking her gaze over him like a hungry lion. “You comin’ out tonight?”

Steve steps back, shaking his head. “You went out last night too.”

She nods, crossing into the house and slipping her shoes off. It’s not like they really need to take their shoes off. The floors are all scuffed up, the hardwood’s splintered in some spots and the tile in the kitchen and bathroom is disgusting. They need to move. Steve’s embarrassed by this place. It’s time he moves anyway. There’s too many memories here that he doesn’t like. He feared Bucky once— even thought Bucky would be the one to kill him. There were many nights he’d spent locked in what became their bedroom because he refused food or drink from Bucky. There were many nights Bucky stayed with him, watching to make sure Steve didn’t bite off his own tongue (he’d tried once). They needed to move out of this shack. Too many memories Steve didn’t want anymore.

He likes the newer memories– the ones where Bucky plays old jazz music and swings Steve around the living room, or the ones where they’re so filthy from gardening all day that they both shove each other into the broken shower and take turns kissing each other’s shoulders and neck. He likes those memories in this house. He doesn’t like the start, but he loves the end. But it's time to move on. Steve needs to put that whole— beginning— behind him.

“Steve?” Nat asks, waving a hand in front of his face. “You still in there, pretty boy?”

“Bucky made dinner.” Steve starts walking back toward the kitchen with its mint green fridge and the black and white tiles. The house is so 50s it’s a surprise Frank Sinatra isn’t storming in. “C’mon.”

When Natasha moves, she moves like the huntress she’s known to be. Her thighs guide her along and her spine sways with each step. She bobs her head from side-to-side and that just ties up the whole prowl into a neat little display of brutality and finesse. Steve’s turned on and terrified.

“Bucky was just about to tell me what this meat is.” Steve points to the purple meat atop the pasta.

“Oh— that’s liver.” Natasha grabs a plate and starts serving herself. “Tasty, tasty.”

Steve’s heart sinks. “Whose liver, Buck?”

Bucky shrinks in the chair, pouting. He’s a terrible liar and Steve knows that Bucky wants to be good— at least for Steve. He’s always so ashamed when he messes up. It’s okay to mess up. Steve’s not perfect. He’s hidden away in closets when he should’ve been fighting for his friends’ lives, he lets his boyfriend continue on killing people because it makes him happy. Steve’s far from perfect. He just doesn’t know how to articulate that to Bucky. There’s such an innocence— or maybe it’s a void— in Bucky. It gives him the illusion of appearing innocent when he’s anything but. Steve likes it when Bucky comes home from a killing. He’s always so alive. Almost like he was normal… So Steve lets Bucky keep killing so Bucky can come home and be alive.

“Probably someone from last night.” Natasha shrugs, taking a bite. “It’s fresh, who cares.”

“I don’t eat people.”

Natasha snorts.

Steve turns to Bucky with disappointment written across his face. He wants to explain why it’s wrong, but then he’d have to explain why it’s all wrong. Killing’s wrong and Steve lets Bucky do it because Steve likes it when Bucky’s a normal person. Steve lets Bucky stalk people to decide who he wants to kill because it makes Bucky horny as fuck and Steve loves it when Bucky takes over in the bedroom. Steve does a lot of things that’re wrong. He can’t explain to Bucky one part without saying every part is wrong. So he condones all of it.

“We didn’t have the money and you need the protein— so I just,” Bucky pauses, wincing. “M’sorry, Stevie.”

“Don’t call me that.” Steve turns, angry for an entirely different reason and retreats to the bedroom. He falls onto the rumpled blankets and stares out the window. It’s got bars on the outside. Another reason he wants to move. He doesn’t want to feel like he’s in prison anymore. He heaves a sigh, knowing full well he was over-sensitive. Bucky’s never ventured into nickname territory before and Steve’s never felt a reason to explain why Stevie upsets him. It’s not Bucky’s fault and yet Steve can’t stop the feeling of someone tearing at his heart. He looks at his arms, seeing the long strands of hair. He dips his hand under his shirt, letting the pads of his fingers slip over a fuzzy tummy and a fuzzy chest. He’s a man. He’s a man. He’s always been a man. It doesn’t matter what he started out looking like. This is who he is. A stupid nickname isn’t going to change that.

And yet Steve can’t stop the anger that festers like an infected wound.


Then

Steve’s dragged in front of two other people. He’s staring up at them with all the hatred he can muster despite the terror that’s berating him inside. His limbs are shaking, but it’s not even from the fear anymore. He’s pissed. He’s pissed at himself for being so helpless and he’s pissed at them for hurting his friends. Sharon’s on one of the chairs. She’s got blood all over and there’s a huge welt on her lip. She’s crying silently, but she’s still trying to pull her hands free from their bonds. It’s useless. They used zip-ties.

The two others are also wearing masks. One’s an insane duck with sharp teeth and the other is a potato sack with a face on it with X’s for eyes. Steve hates the masks. He hates the games that these people have been playing for most of the night. It’d started with knocks on the door and no one there. Then came the knocks on the windows followed by the screaming outside. Then the lights flickered and a terrible song came on. Everything just went wrong and Steve had never been so terrified. But that fear is starting to morph into putrid, vehement anger that’s radiating off Steve like steam. Good, he thinks, at least he’ll go down fighting.

The duck-mask one steps forward and Steve decides he’s had enough. He lunges forward, tossing the bunny-mask guy over his back and into Duck-mask guy. Creepy potato sack pulls out a knife but Steve grabs a chair and bashes it into the man’s stomach. He hears the chair crack. He doesn’t think about what’s happening. He doesn’t even register the knife is so close that its cool bite is against his throat. As the blade sinks against the skin, he shoves the chair into his attacker and one of the pegs goes into his stomach. The guy howls and drops the blade.

Steve feels someone jump on his back. She’s screaming and pulling at his face and getting her fingernails into his nose and trying to claw out his eyes. She scratches deep and manages to get her fingers under one eyelid before Steve’s backed her up into a wall and yanks her hair so hard that she tumbles over and off him.

Three people stand ready to attack him. His friends are all watching— well the ones still alive. Harry is floating in the lake. Sharon’s screaming at Steve to run. Erik’s lost too much blood to do anything but give a small smile and Phil’s trying to find a way to get out of the zip-ties.

“You’re gonna die so slowly for that!” the redhead screams. Her eyes are lit with an animalistic desperation, a terror that Steve’s never seen again since this very night. “I’m gonna flay you alive and feed your cock to you!”

Despite the danger presented, Steve starts laughing. He didn’t mean to find it funny, in fact, the situation is dire and he’s still rather afraid of what’s going to happen but this woman isn’t in on the joke and her face is amusing enough so Steve keeps laughing. It’s the irony of her words and Steve just can’t stop laughing.

“Hey,” the bunny-mask guy says. “Jack’s losin’ a lot of blood.”

“Oh fuck him, Brock!” the redhead says. Her voice is two shades away from crazy. Steve should be caring about what’s happening before him. He’s surrounded by psycho murderers and he’s laughing. But her words. Her words are so laughable because it’s an impossibility that she believes true and it’s funny to him. “This little shit thinks he’s somethin’!”

“Wait!” the creepy duck one says. He pulls off his mask and Steve stops laughing. He’s beautiful— shaggy brown hair, bright large eyes and beautifully crafted lips. Steve wants to draw him. “You said you wanted to show me him.”

“Here he is! Now I’m gonna kill him!” the redhead lunges at Steve but duck-mask pulls her back.

“Hey! Stop it! Nat! Stop!” Duck-mask grabs at redhead’s tiny throat and pulls her back against his front. They’re both breathing heavily and Steve stops to appreciate how beautiful they both are. He’d never thought murderers could be so pretty. He sees a glint of something silver on Duck-mask’s left arm but it’s quickly forgotten.

Steve looks to his friends. He’s not sure he could save a single one of them, but he could at least try. In a moment of sheer stupidity, he moves to Phil and realizes a moment too late that he has nothing to cut the zip-tie with.

“You’re an idiot,” Nat says. He’s slowly learning they have names. “You’re just a big dumb oaf and I’m gonna love splitting you open cock-first!”

Steve looks to the door, weighing his chances. He’d be dead before he even took a step. Brock, the bunny-mask one, is stalking around him like a crocodile, all sinister smiles and glinting eyes. His face is so ugly with all that twisted up scarring that Steve actually starts to remember he’s scared shitless. The one Steve managed to stab is on the couch and groaning. Duck-mask and Nat are watching him. Duck-mask seems to be the one in charge, and he’s staring at Steve with wonder— not anger.

Steve swallows. “Don’t hurt us. Please.” He hates himself for how shaky his voice is. He can’t save his friends, so he resorts to begging. Maybe it’ll buy some time. Someone’ll come and save them. A hollow feeling chills Steve’s core. No one will save them.

Nat snorts. Brock barks out a laugh.

“Too late for that, pal,” Duck-mask says. “You’ve seen our faces.”

“We won’t tell anyone!” Sharon exclaims. She rocks back in the chair, sobbing. “Please don’t do this! Please, please!”

“Shut up you dumb bitch!” Nat says. She moves over with speed and an alarming amount of grace to backhand Sharon. “You’re all gonna watch your pretty blond friend suffer and then I’ll end you myself, bimbo.”

Sharon bursts out into tears.

“I-its gonna be okay, Shar,” Steve says. He’s lying. He’s not even sure what he’s supposed to do now. He’s facing off with three murderers and one is mad as a hatter. He looks to the duck-mask one again. “I’m Steve.” He read in a book that sometimes you can talk a shooter down from killing if you flesh out your life to them. He wonders if that’ll be the case with psychopathic murderers too. “I’m twenty-seven years old and I’m still in college. I’ve got asthma and—”

“Do you think we care?” Nat asks. She stalks up to him, putting a knife to his temple. “I could slip this into your skull before you even move.”

“Nat,” Duck-mask says. “Put it down.”

“Bucky!”

“I said put it down!”

She backs up, sneering. “He’ll kill you nice n’ slow.”

Steve wipes at his eyes. He didn’t even know he was crying, but the evidence is shimmering up at him. Erik’s completely passed out now and Phil’s managed to cut himself deeply with the zip-tie. They’re all goners.

“Steve, huh?” Duck-mask says, “I’m Bucky.”


Now

Bucky creeps into their room at quarter to four AM. He’s tip-toeing around like Steve’s made of glass and could shatter from any vibration. Steve’s pissed off and thankful all at the same time. He likes when Bucky tries to be good. He also hates when Bucky fears him.

“Hey,” Steve says, turning over. “Good night?” He can’t see Bucky too well in the dark, but what he does see is splotches of dark on otherwise luminescent skin. Steve’s sure it’s blood.

“Tryin’ to find clothes. Didn’t know— didn’t know you were awake.” He shrinks backwards for the door.

“Bucky wait!” Steve sits up. Sometimes it’s hard to just get the words out. They cling to Steve’s throat, wanting to be said but he can’t force them to move onward. “I’m not— I didn’t—”

“S’okay, Steve. I won’t do it again.”

“Do what again?” He frowns.

“Say that name.” Bucky puts his duck mask down and heads back into the darkness of the hallway. Steve can hear the floorboards creak and moan beneath his weight.

Closing his eyes, Steve pulls himself out of bed and wanders over to the bathroom. There’s a little light on that creeps through the cracks. It’s the only light in the darkness of the tiny house. Steve’s pretty sure this used to be a fisherman’s home. They live in the small town of Mystic, Connecticut. Steve had moved out here during the summer to be closer to some of his friends. He’d planned on finishing his degree from NYU online but then— everything happened. Sometimes he can smell the saltwater when it’s breezy outside. It’s not like he hates the location. It’s a nice shack pushed up against a rocky hill that tumbles into the ocean. He just hates the house. It’s isolated. Steve doesn’t want to be isolated anymore.

He knocks on the bathroom door, waiting. Bucky doesn’t respond. That doesn’t discourage Steve though. Sometimes Bucky just can’t bring himself to talk. He slips into the bathroom and fidgets his toes atop the grimy tile. They should clean.

Bucky’s sitting on the toilet with his hair covering his face. He’s got his shirt and prosthesis off, and Steve can see raised lines and cuts in his arm. Prosthesis. Steve would never have imagined in a million years that a— man like Bucky— could do what he can. The cuts in Bucky’s arm distract Steve once more. Someone had been clawing at him. That shadow that Steve carries around gets heavier on his shoulders. It pushes him to his knees. He puts his hands on Bucky’s thighs, looking up.

Bucky doesn’t even flinch.

“Hey,” Steve says softly. He waits for any sign that Bucky’s in the mood or not. Not that that’s ever stopped Steve from speaking his mind. “I’m not angry anymore.”

“…Promise?” Bucky’s voice is so vulnerable that it makes Steve shiver. How can a man be so confident when he wields a knife against someone’s skin, and then so damaged once it’s all over?

“I promise.” Steve takes Bucky’s blood-stained hand and kisses the knuckle. “Wanna take a shower with me?”

Bucky’s eyes snap open. He jerks his hand back and stares in disbelief. Steve just cringes, shame pouring over him. “Steve— you don’t— I don’t need—”

“I don’t mind if it’s you, Bucky. You’re honestly the only person in the—” Steve pauses, contemplating his words. “You’re the only person that looks at me like I’m not— broken. My ma tries but— well it’s hard for her. I get that.”

“Sam?” Bucky asks. He takes Steve’s hands and starts tracing the veins. Steve used to think it was cute until Bucky tried to see if he could use his fingernails to slice into them. Steve didn’t talk to Bucky for a week after that. Still, he trusts Bucky and he knows Bucky wants to please him. He doesn’t think Bucky’ll ever pull a stunt like that on Steve again— at least without Steve’s permission. It’s not entirely unheard of for Steve to be okay with a little blood play. It gets Bucky so excited, and Steve loves seeing him come to life.

“Sam’s not my boyfriend. I guess I’m puttin’ him in a different category. He’s known me from day one. Okay, you’re one of two people.” He laughs, tucking a lock of hair behind Bucky’s ear. “But you’re the prettiest one.”

Bucky blushes, looking away. “Steve— you still don’t have to.”

“Do you say that because you think you’re protecting me or because you want to be alone?” Bucky’s hard to read. He piles layers of protection around himself and his words. Sometimes what he’s saying is the exact opposite of what he wants to have happen. Steve’s been working out how to crack that code since the night they met. He’s still not that good, but he’s gotten better.

“I’m in a bad mood.”

Steve sits on the tile, his long legs on either side of the toilet. He really wants that shower now. This place is filthy. “Talk to me, baby.”

Bucky straightens up, saying, “Stupid bitch almost fucked it all up.” He shows off his arm stump. It’s bitten and full of scratch marks. “She pulled my prosthesis off and hit me with it.”

“She dead now?” Steve never thought he could get used to conversations like this, but here he is now.

“After I splayed her open.” Bucky smiles, full and alive and it’s the most gorgeous thing Steve’s ever seen despite the splotches of drying blood and sweat on his face. “She was so beautiful. Like a butterfly. I hung her on the wall for someone to find.”  

Steve stares at one of his legs. They’d initially bonded over their appreciation of art. Bucky brought crayons and paper for Steve and was surprised to see Steve had created something beautiful out of it. They’d started talking like friends that day.

“Do you really— do you really wanna be in the shower with me?”

Steve looks up, nodding.

Bucky tries to smile, but it’s strained. Steve’s used to those tight-lipped attempts at false happiness. “Sometimes I look at’chu and— and I don’t even get it. You stayin’ with me.”

Steve shrugs. “Awful people tend to like awful people.”

“But you’re not awful.”

Steve stands up, looking at the mirror. He never sleeps without a shirt and at least his briefs. Tonight he’s sporting blue boxers that cling to his thick thighs. How did he get so big? He knows he worked for years on it, but when did it really happen?

“We can turn the lights out.”

Steve smirks. Bucky knows him well enough that he won’t continue the previous conversation and that Steve doesn’t want to see himself naked. He leans closer to the door and flicks off the light. There’s a window in the shower. Steve thinks it’s entirely impractical but since there’s nothing around them except woods and water, he’s sure the original builder of the house didn’t care. Moonlight spills into the room with its silver hues, making everything look wet and shiny.

Steve can see Bucky’s prosthesis on the floor, castaway. His face sours. He’s always known Bucky harbors disdain for what happened to him— whatever that was. Bucky still won’t tell him.

They undress silently. Steve takes in a deep breath and tugs his boxers down. He keeps his legs clamped shut and scuffles awkwardly into the shower. The spray of water gurgles out the old pipes and it’s a shock of cold that tenses each muscle in Steve’s body. It warms after a few painful minutes and then Bucky slips behind him. Warm and wrapping his arm around Steve’s middle.

They sway under the shower, nothing but moonlight to guide them. Steve’s thankful for the window. It’s a dingy shower in an old tub inside an even older shack, but it’s theirs. He cups Bucky’s hand with his, leaning back.

“I love you,” Steve whispers. “You know that, right?”

Bucky hums. It’s his way of saying yes when he can’t bring himself to work over the words. Steve’s never minded it— he often feels the same way. Sometimes words just don’t work or they outright refuse to. They speak in other ways.

“Your hand’s all slimy,” Steve says as he flicks one of Bucky’s knuckles.

“Blood.”

“I know.” Steve grabs the soap and starts to lather up a loofa. He brings it to Bucky’s hand and starts working at the skin and blood. “Other than that girl, was it a good night?”

“I never felt right leavin’ you.” Bucky presses a kiss to the nape of Steve’s neck. “I hate it when we fight.”

“We weren’t fighting.” Steve brings the loofa over Bucky’s forearm now, watching the bubbles turn blue in the moonlight. “It was just a stupid misunderstanding.”

“Who called you that?” Bucky asks. It knocks the wind out of Steve. “Are they alive? You know I’d kill ‘em for you.”

“I-I know.” Steve’s heart’s found its way into his throat. He coughs to choke it back down. “Don’t worry about it.”

“Someone hurt you, Steve. You’re a good guy, they gotta be real bad to make you hate ‘em.”

“I don’t hate anyone, Bucky.”

“Then why you gettin’ pissed?”

“Bucky!” Steve shouts, turning around. He accidently knocks Bucky back into the shower tile. “Oh… fuck… Bucky m’sorry—” He reaches out but Bucky smacks his hand away. Steve just stands there like the idiot he is. Always been too wrong. Too tall too skinny too curvy too weird.

“I can get up myself.” Bucky grabs the tub’s side and hauls himself to a sitting position. He brings his knees in and wraps his arm around them. “But I don’t wanna.”

Steve hesitantly goes to his knees. The shower feels cooler down here. He doesn’t like it so he turns up the heat.

“I know I—” Bucky’s on the verge of tears. “I know I do wrong things. I know I mess up. I just wanna be good for you.” He drops his head, hiding his face. “I just wanna make you happy.”

“You do make me happy.”

Bucky shakes his head. “You don’t really smile.”

Steve looks away. “You don’t either.”

“I’m not right. That’s why. But you— you’re right as n’angel. God, when I first saw you, Steve. I knew we couldn’t hurt’chu.”

Steve feels his heart sink. “I’m not right either, Bucky. I never have been.”

They don’t talk anymore. That’s one of their problems. They’ll dance around conversations that need to be had but when they finally try, one of them chickens out. They’ve been skirting around this one for weeks now. Steve thinks at the rate they’re going that they’ll finally hash it all out by Christmas in two years. If they make it that long. Steve’s not really sure how long Bucky can keep slaughtering people in Mystic before there’s no one left, or the police finally catch him and his friends. The newspapers have been hesitant to admit it’s a group of killers but the town knows better. Silent Soldiers, they’re called. Each of them have a personal calling card and it’s all too different to be a single person. Nat always leaves a dead black widow in her victim’s mouth, Brock makes sure to burn someone’s face like his and Bucky always creates beautiful imagery out of body horror and blood. Jack’s a bit tamer with his. He shoots them in the back of the head once he’s done torturing them.

“S’cold,” Bucky whispers.

Steve looks up and notices the moon’s higher in the sky, blocked by clouds. The room’s almost pitch black. He’s not sure if they’ve sat here for five minutes or an hour. He assumes by the cool water spray that it’s been closer to an hour.

“I’m not happy,” Steve finally says. “But it’s fixable.”

Bucky turns the water off and gets out of the shower. He wraps himself in a towel and then offers one to Steve. “How?”

“We move,” Steve says. “Closer to my friends? I want you to meet ‘em.”

Bucky hisses. He takes the towel and starts scrubbing over his head. Steve waits, pressing his lips together for something to do. He knows Bucky hates people. He’s downright afraid of them when he’s not the one in control. But Steve wants normalcy again. He wants to feel less like a shell and more like a human. Being around Brock, Jack and Nat all the time is damaging for his psyche. All he thinks about is blood, bone and horrible ways to torture bodies. He’s even done some sketches for it. Nat’s of course treasures them and they’re all in frames around her little apartment above one of the coffee shops in town. He’s officially an accessory to murder because of those sketches. Bucky started asking Steve to get creative and they actually made it come to— well— life.

“Please, Buck. Please do this for me.” He wraps his arms around Bucky’s chilled skin. He likes pushing his nose into Bucky’s neck and smelling him. Bucky’s got this musky, earthen scent. It’s like sand on a beach that’s been soaked too long or maybe dried out mulch. It changes all the time but it’s so Bucky.

“Fine. Start lookin’ fer houses.” Bucky kisses Steve’s cheek before walking away.

They end the night in silence.


Then

Steve’s taken from the room with his dying friends in it. He’s screaming, prying at the wall and trying to dig his fingers in. Bucky’s bigger than him, bulging muscle and a heavy metal arm. Steve should’ve paid more attention when he saw that silver glint from before. He’s backhanded once where he tries to hold onto the molding around the kitchen archway. He started prying it off the wall. A swift smack to the face and he is in Bucky’s arms and being taken up the steps.

They’re sitting in Sharon’s bedroom. Steve knows it’s hers because the walls are pink and there’s countless soccer trophies all over. She grew up in this vacation home as much as her other home. All her “last season” trophies are stored here.

Bucky’s pacing. He’s flicking a knife around and doing all sorts of interesting little tricks with it. It’s enough to keep Steve transfixed until he finally turns to Steve.

“You scared of death?” Bucky asks.

Steve nods. It’s a stupid question. Of course he is. Isn’t everyone?

Bucky smiles. “I could kill you real easy. Slit your throat or somethin’ so Nat doesn’t do it. Be better than what she has planned.”

Steve bites his lip. “I-I don’t wanna die. Please.”

“And I don’t wanna kill you,” Bucky says.

Steve stares at him. A murderer that doesn’t want to kill is like a fox that doesn’t want to hunt chickens. It’s strange. Like Steve.

“You’re really somethin’ you know? Jack’s got a big ol’ thing of wood in ‘im. You’ve got a lot a’heart.”

“Where’re you from?” Steve asks. The accent isn’t New York. It’s not even New England.

“Indiana.” Bucky sits on the bed, still flicking that knife around. He twirls it between his fingers like he can’t make a mistake. A mistake would take his finger off, Steve’s sure. “You?”

“Brooklyn.”

Bucky smiles. “You New York types love sayin’ exactly where. What, New York ain’t good enough?”

“It’s important to me. So’s Brooklyn.” Steve tenses when he hears a blood-curdling scream. “Sharon!” He stands up, ready to burst through the door. Bucky stands up and gets in his way. The man’s chest is so thick that Steve barely even pushes him back. “Move! You can’t do this to them! You just can’t!”

“And why not?” Bucky shouts back. “Why can’t we? We are, ain’t we?”

Steve’s crying. He pounds his fists on Bucky’s chest, listening to the thudding reverberations. “It’s not right! You’re hurting them!”

Bucky smirks, grabbing Steve’s hands with metal and flesh hands. “No— we’re killin’ ‘em.”

Steve falls to the floor, sobbing. “Stop it, stop it please, please just stop.”

Bucky doesn’t move. He stares at Steve’s crying form and that’s when it all starts to click into place. This is something Bucky likes seeing. Steve sniffs one more time. He wipes at his nose in the most unattractive manner and stares up at Bucky. He doesn’t like being on his knees before this man, but he’s not sure he’ll be allowed back up if he tried.

“You really are pretty,” Bucky whispers. “Nat’s right.”

“Don’t call me that.”

“What? Pretty? A cow can’t ask a farmer to not call it meat. What makes you different?”

Steve sneers. “You’re a monster.”

Bucky laughs. It’s full of malice and drunk on the power he wields. He’s a psychopath, drawn to the displeasure of others and Steve couldn’t be more repulsed. He hears another shriek from downstairs.

“JESUS, JUST LEAVE THEM ALONE!” Steve wails. “Do whatever you want with me. Just let them go.”

Bucky kneels in front of Steve, his brow furrowed. He’s got the prettiest gray eyes. Steve wants to claw them out but he’s so exhausted from the night’s events. Running, terror, pain…

“Whatever I want?”

“Yes,” Steve answers numbly. “Just let them go.”

Bucky scoots closer, leaning into Steve’s ear. “That’s the thing, Steve— I don’t hafta. I already gotcha. My friends got them. We’re already doing whatever we want to you.”

Steve lets the tears pour silently from his eyes. He looks at Bucky’s metal hand. “What happened?”

Bucky pulls the appendage back, hiding it under his long black shirt. “You’re gonna be too dead soon to care.”

Steve just nods. His mind is shrieking at him. Fight or flight is battling inside, wielding sharp knives of their own but he can’t will his legs to even move. He can’t even ball his hand into a fist. He’s done.

“I don’t wanna kill you, Steve.” Bucky wraps his hand around Steve’s wrist. It’s warm and Steve hisses. He wants to shake this creature off. Steve can’t remember the last time someone touched him so intimately, so he lets it happen. “I just need to know if I can trust you.”

“Why?”

“So I can save you.”

“Why?”

Bucky laughs. “Have you seen yourself in a mirror? You’re beautiful. And I like your spirit.”

Steve snorts. He’s seen himself in a mirror alright. He’d always stared at mirrors when he was growing up, picking and prodding at what he didn’t like. His lack of jawline, his too crooked nose or the way his lips always looked like he was ready for a kiss. He hated it.

“What’re you gonna do?” Steve asks. “Rape me? Lock me in a closet forever?”

Bucky shakes his head. “I don’t rape people— that’s Brock’s thing.”

Steve bites his tongue. Of course the creepy burned guy would be the rapist of the bunch. “So what’re you gonna do?”

Bucky shrugs a shoulder. “See how far I can take you.”

“What?”

“I mean see how far I can take you out of here— before they notice.”

Steve has never grabbed someone’s hand so fast. He doesn’t trust Bucky. He’s almost certain something bad will happen— but he wants to live. He’s not done anything important yet and he wants to live. He argues in his head about how to save his friends, but from the sounds downstairs, he’s certain they’re already cutting into them.

“Shar?”

“She your girlfriend?”

Steve shakes his head.

“She’s dying. Let’s go, Steve. I can’t save all of you.”


Now

Pan’s Labyrinth. Steve can hear the soundtrack playing from the other room as he sits on the bed with the laptop. He’s been house hunting for a few hours now but it’s proving difficult. They don’t have a lot of money. After crunching the numbers and speculating on what kind of mortgage they can deal with, Steve is reduced to looking at only foreclosure homes and none of them are any better than the shithole he is in now. He needs a job. He also needs to call his ma and ask her for his college funds.

The somber melody plays through the house, tugging on Steve’s heartstrings. Bucky always plays Pan’s Labyrinth when he’s happy. Bucky can express his emotions in music far better than he can in words. He turns on a tune, lies on the sofa and just lets it do the talking for him. He even hums the lullaby to Steve at night sometimes. At least he’s in a good mood today. Last night ended so poorly. Usually Bucky’s always happy when he comes home from a killing. Steve had managed to wreck that up for him before he’d left. Guilt presses against the back of Steve’s neck. He reaches up, massaging at the tired muscles. He needs to call his ma.

He picks up Bucky’s phone (they share) and punches in the numbers on the old flip phone. After a few beats, his mother picks up.

“We need t’get ye a new phone,” she says with her diluted Irish accent. “I can’t have you entirely dependent on tha’ man.”

Steve smiles sadly. He never told her that he’d been kidnapped. He’d even denied that he was at the house the night Sharon, Phil, Harry and Erik were murdered. Bucky said he’d gone back and cleaned the place so nothing of Steve was left. It was a huge lie that seeped into Steve’s muscles and made him perpetually tired. He hates lying to his mother.

“I don’t have any money for a new phone.”

“I can ask some of the nurses at work. Maybe they’ve gotta spare. What’re ya doin’? You haven’t called in awhile.”

Steve leans back on the bed, idly jerking his legs. Bucky swears he has Restless Leg Syndrome. Steve thinks that’s a fake condition, but he’ll claim it all day if it lets him keep bouncing his legs all the time.

“I’ve been thinkin’ about freelance art work. We need money to get a new house.”

“A new house? Will it be big enough so I can visit?”

“Ma!” Steve laughs. “Of course— if we can afford it. I need— I need to dip into my college fund.”

There’s a long pause followed by a deep sigh. Steve cringes.

Stacy,” she says.

Steve suppresses the snarl. He knows she used that on purpose.

“You’re a grown adult and y’can make yer own decisions. Lord knows you’ve made plenty without me.”

“Ma—”

“I’m not saying I don’t support them! Because I do! I was cuttin’ yer hair at th’age of five when yer father was—” She stops. “Well you know what he was doin’ ta me.”

Steve swallows roughly. “I know.”

“So you need a new phone, yer college fund and what else? You have enough medication? How’s yer asthma? Th’weather’s gettin’ colder here.”

“I’m runnin’ out of—” Steve halts, licking the corner of his lips. “I’m runnin’ out of T.” He’s not ashamed that he takes a testosterone regimen. He’s not even ashamed at being trans— not really. He’s angry he had to do it in the first place and he never will feel like he fits in, but Bucky’s never cared. First time Bucky saw Steve naked he teased him about having the cutest little cock. Even gave him a blow job. Bucky’s always done well with Steve being different. Bucky doesn’t think he’s different though. He sees Steve as any guy would see a cis guy. He’s never joked about fucking Steve in the pussy or even inserted his fingers inside there. Steve wouldn’t mind, not at this point. He trusts Bucky so much now. But Steve likes the respect Bucky gives him. All Steve is— is a tall, massive man with a tiny cock to Bucky; a man with a tiny cock whom Bucky loves.

“Oh shite,” his mother whispers. “I can’t get my health insurance to cover you, baby. You’re too old now.”

“How much is it? I’m gonna open freelance work, so if anyone needs custom holiday cards? Maybe family portraits?” Steve sits up on the bed, his heart panicking. He’d never gotten bottom surgery. He didn’t want it. It’s not the parts that he’s entirely concerned about. It’s just the blending. He just wants to walk down a damn street and be seen for what he truly is. He had enough issues being a tall woman with large breasts trying to make her way through those passing stages. He never passed and everyone knew. Dyke, lesbo, freak, what’s the matter with you? Women have it so great why would you ever want to change who you are? As if he was deciding to change from a woman to a man. No. He was, and has always been, a man. He’d just stolen a woman’s body without meaning to.

“I’m not sure, I’ll hafta look into it. In th’meantime though, tell me about yer man. You never do.” Steve can see her now, sprawling out on the bed with her hand tangling into the corded phone. She’s one of those stubborn old girls living in the past who loves the romance of the corded phone. Claims it makes gossip so much sweeter.

“He’s good to me.”

“And he knows?”

“Yeah Ma, he knows. Never cared.”

“And yer sure movin’ into a house with this guy’s a good idea? You haven’t known him that long.” Bucky’s friends (and Steve now supposes his) had killed his friends back in the beginnings of summer. It’s only now just becoming early Fall. In the grand scheme of things, it did seem a bit rushed, and probably not entirely healthy if an outsider knew all their dark secrets. Steve’s never going to be sure if he has Stockholm Syndrome or not. He doesn’t think he does. He began to bond naturally with Bucky. Bucky’s behaviors didn’t coax or manipulate one way or the other. They love each other. Not many would love a serial killer the way Steve does and Steve’s honestly too terrified to try again to find someone else. He could— easily— but he doesn’t want someone else. He wants Bucky.

“He’s perfect for me,” Steve answers. “Sweet, takes good care of me, respects who I am. I’m not some fetishized conquest or anything like that. I’m a person— just a guy. He treats me right, Ma.”

“You really love ‘im.”

“Absolutely.” Steve hears the music switch to another soundtrack. Amelie. Bucky’s still happy. Probably napping on the sofa.

His mother laughs and Steve can hear shuffling of sheets. He knows the phone call is ending soon.

“Sowhen do I get grandkids?”

Steve rolls his eyes. “Good bye mother.”

“Oh! You’re so cold ya know!”

“Text me how to get my college fund. Love you.” He hangs up the phone before she can answer. It’s his own way of being snarky. He stands up, stretching. He’ll keep looking for houses later. Right now he needs to wait till he gets all the information. He doesn’t want to be disappointed with falling in love with a house they can’t afford.

He walks into the living room. The curtains are old and flannel, the couch is a beat up leather thing that despite how ragged it is, it’s the most comfortable thing ever. Bucky’s on that couch, tapping his foot idly to the rhythm of the song. His eyes are closed and he’s got a tiny little smile on his face. He’s making little strokes into the air with his hands. Steve just watches, a little smile creeping onto his lips. He loves Bucky like this— relaxed, happy and relatable. This is the Bucky that Steve can have conversations all day with. The one that starts dancing in the middle of the kitchen and grabs Steve by the hips to join.

“Hey Buck,” Steve finally says.

Bucky opens an eye. He smiles wider and then sits up. “How’s house hunting?”

Steve sits on the couch, leaning against Bucky. He’s on his bad side but that doesn’t stop him from curling up under Bucky’s arm stump. He’s always been a tall mess of a human being. Bucky somehow manages to make him feel small. He likes that feeling.

“Boring and we have no money. You’re not hiding some kind of rich inheritance by any chance are you?”

Bucky snorts. He listens to the music wafting in the air for a bit before answering. It’s not an uncomfortable pause. Quite opposite really. When Bucky’s like this, their silences are nice interludes that leave each other wanting more.

“Unfortunately no. My parents are still alive.”

Steve blinks. He’s never heard Bucky talk about his family before. “Oh. Well— do they know you’re— um— that you like guys?”

“Why do you get so weird about it?”

Steve recoils. “I don’t get weird about it.”

“Yes you do. You could’ve asked if they know I’m gay. But you got weird about it.”

Steve sits up. “I’m not weird about anything.”

Bucky stands up, muttering something about stubborn ass under his breath. That only makes Steve’s temper flare. He’s always been a hot-head. One of his bigger downfalls but he isn’t going to think about tactics when he’s pissed off.

“Look,” Bucky begins. “I’m not tryin’ to be an ass. But I know why you get weird all the time. You’re a guy, Steve! No one’s telling you that you ain’t but you!”

Steve bites his lip. Anger coils beneath his skin, ready to explode at Bucky. He’s gripping the couch so hard he can feel the thin leather actually tearing between his fingers.

“I’m the only one who knows I’m a guy.” He’s clenching his teeth, glaring up at Bucky.

“Excuse me? What happened to last night? I’m supposed to be the only one that doesn’t think you’re crazy! I’m the crazy one!”

Steve huffs, crossing his arms. “Oh and how’s that supposed to translate for me? The only guy I could land is a serial killer!” He stands up. “I don’t wanna have this conversation.”

“No, Steve!” Bucky grabs Steve’s wrist. “We’re gonna have this conversation.”

“Let. Go.” Steve looks up, misery and anger etched deeply into his blue eyes. He’s embarrassed because Bucky’s right. Steve treads water around the subject like he has something to hide. He has nothing to hide. No amount of top surgery, T, work outs or the hairs on his chest as proof can change what he knows. He started out in a female body and he’ll always carry the shame of remembering that. It’s not the same for every person. Some transmen are so happy after they get on T or start on their paths. Steve’s never been able to let go of the guilt. It’s been piling on him since he was a child and it’s weighed him down so much since then. He can’t shake it. His experience isn’t everyone’s and he’s so glad that’s the case. For him, he’ll always remember the disappointment on his father’s face. He’ll always remember the whispers on the schoolyard when he made a fuss about having to use the little girl’s room. He’s always been bullied for not being right. Maybe he’s taken that so deeply that he has to bully himself. Stacy… Stacy… Stacy…

I’m not that anymore. I was never that.

Tears slip from his eyes. He folds into Bucky and sobs, clutching his lover for all he’s worth. Steve’s muscles are large and they press awkwardly against Bucky’s own. Muscles he worked so hard to obtain and wouldn’t change for the world. He clings to Bucky, whispering apologizes that Bucky probably wants nothing to do with. Bucky’s never upset with Steve. Steve is always upset with Bucky. It’s never even anything that Bucky’s done wrong. Arguably, Bucky’s never done anything wrong since they ran away from that night.

“Steve,” Bucky whispers, kissing Steve’s head. “It’s okay.”

Steve doesn’t respond. He doesn’t really know how. He’s embarrassed, angry and there’s that guilt that weighs him down. He just holds Bucky, wishing something would make him forget the life he had before he’d found Bucky. Even Sharon messed up Steve’s pronouns sometimes. It wasn’t until Steve's shoulders broadened and he got muscled up that she really got good at it. She was terrible about it in high school.

Bucky pulls Steve in for a kiss. It’s soft, slow and the way his stubble presses into Steve makes Steve groan. He pulls back, staring with gray eyes so clear. It’s rare that Bucky’s ever this clear in the head. “You don’t need anyone’s permission to be who you are. You don’t need justification to call yourself whatever you want. Nothin’s gonna change how I see you and nothin’s gonna change how you see you.”

Steve’s still can’t respond.

Bucky sighs. He turns off the music and makes his way down the hall. He pauses, looking to the side. “I’ll call my family. Maybe they’ll have money to spare.”

Steve’s left standing in the living room, feeling childish and angry. He does the only thing he can do when it gets like this. He goes outside into the chilly early autumn air and walks along the rocky coast.

Chapter Text

Then

It’s Steve’s first time coming with them. He’s feeling a mixture of self-hatred, curiosity and empowerment. They’re going to a house that Steve doesn’t know and has no idea what to expect inside. Bucky only said one thing: they don’t kill children. They tend to target young adults or groups. They like to avoid families. Steve appreciates that. Even monsters have moral codes.

“Wait in the car, scrub.” Brock tosses a phone at Steve. “Call us if you see any get out. We’ll come getcha for the finale.” He smiles that crocodile smile and then they’re putting on their masks and heading for the house.

Natasha never wears a mask. Steve assumes she’s terrifying enough without it.

Waiting in the car here is about as boring as waiting in a grocery parking lot. Steve plays with the radio, daydreams about what Bucky experiences when he goes hunting. He’s bored in fifteen minutes. He turns around and looks through the backseat. He finds a spare mask— a nun. He picks up the mask and traces along the blue habit. If this isn’t a sign from God then Steve doesn’t know what is. He can’t do this. Waiting in a car casually while people die is even worse than hiding in a closet listening to his friends’ screams.

He gets out, tossing the nun mask aside. He has to save them.


Now

“What about this one?” Bucky asks pointing to a three bedroom, two bath house. “It’s cute and in walkable distance from town.”

“It’s also about fifty thousand above our budget.” Steve’s nibbling on his thumbnail at the kitchen table. Bucky’s leaning over him, frowning. “Never thought it’d be this stressful.”

“Tell me about it,” Bucky grumbles.

Steve rolls his eyes, but he goes back to clicking around on the website. There’s got to be a house they both like enough to go see.

“You know— murders make houses cheap.”

“We’re not slaughtering a family to get their house.” Steve closes the laptop, rubbing at his eyes. “When’s dinner?”

Bucky remains silent. He stirs their soup casually, humming a lullaby that Steve used to hear in the other room when he’d been kidnapped.

Bayu Bayushki Bayu,” Steve says. “I looked up what it means.”

Bucky looks over his shoulder but he says nothing.

“It’s about a wolf eating kids if they get too close to the edge of a bed or something.” Steve turns back to his laptop, tracing its Apple emblem. “It’s freaky.”

Bucky snorts. “You should hear Tili Tili Bom again.”

“Did you ever sing that one to me? I don’t remember it.”

Bucky shakes his head. He turns off the burner and pulls out two plastic bowls.

“So then why again??”

“It’s the song we played on repeat when— when we met.” Bucky ladles out the soup for them.

Steve leans on the table. “Oh.”

Bucky puts the soup in front of Steve and then goes to sit at his side of the table. “It’s about a man who will kill you if you’re not sleeping. Knocks on the door, gets inside the house, stares at you— kills you.”

“I never knew.” He looks at his soup, watching the steam dance and curl in the air.

“I never told you. I tend to avoid that one if I’m humming around you.”

Steve looks at his hands. His soup’s too hot to distract himself with. They don’t often talk about that night. It’s sometimes brought up casually or briefly, but never the details. It’s hard to forget a meeting like that. People died, Steve found he has a twisted sense of morality. He’d excused a killer. Granted, he’s changed Bucky. After a lot of griping from Brock, Steve got their merry band of killers to only go after people who seem bad. It’s not perfect, and a lot of innocent people get caught in the crosshairs, but there’s been a lot of sex offenders that’ve been picked off because of it. Still, they can’t stay on a trend like that or they become traceable. They’ll have to switch up their motives again.

“Don’t change yourself because of me,” Steve whispers. “I like who you are.” The irony isn't lost on Steve. He's already changed Bucky.

Bucky doesn’t smile. He stares blankly at Steve, tilting his head to the side. “Do you— really?”

Before Steve can answer, someone’s banging on their door. Steve rushes into the living room, pulling the door open. Brock’s standing there, his mangled face morphed into what should be a smile and Jack’s by his side. He doesn’t smile. He doesn’t do much other than look looming honestly. At least he forgave Steve for the stomach wound. It left a nasty scar though. Steve’s rather proud of it.

“We come with booze and tales of drama down yonder!” Brock announces. He walks in, muddy shoes and all. Steve rolls his eyes. At least the hardwood is disgusting here. He follows Jack and Brock back into the kitchen. Bucky’s standing with a knife, his eyes wide.

“Easy tiger,” Brock says. “Who we gonna off? Your boy-toy?”

Steve glares.

“You startled me,” Bucky says. His voice is void of any emotion. It’s not alarming to Steve. This is the Bucky he’s usually around. The one that can’t smile unless he’s describing a hunt or the one that lies in bed all day because he doesn’t want to move. Steve takes care of him— he likes to. But Steve will always prefer the Bucky that’s alive.

Bucky digs the knife into the kitchen counter and Steve groans. “Bucky! We have to sell this house!”

“You’re movin’?” Brock asks as he sits down, spreads his legs wide and cracks open a beer. He tosses one to Bucky. Miraculously, Bucky catches it.

“Steve wants to be closer to town.”

“And you— wanna be closer to town?” Jack leans against the counter. He snags the knife and starts twirling it with his hand.

“I wanna do whatever Steve wants.” Bucky turns to Steve, trying to smile. It barely even pulls at his lips. Steve still smiles back all the same. He’s proud of Bucky for at least trying.

“Word’s on the street they’re bringin’ the FBI into Mystic.” Brock takes a long pull of his beer. “We’re really fuckin’ up the place, huh?”

“The FBI?” Steve furrows his brow. “But—”

“Relax scrub,” Brock says. “We lie low. Kill some dogs or the neighbor’s cat and once they leave we start up again.”

“And they’ll just,” Steve gestures in the air wildly, “leave?”

“Have before,” Bucky says. “We’re hard to find and they think we migrate around New England. Occasionally we venture out of Connecticut to keep them off our tail.”

“We’re not idiots,” Jack says, poking Steve in the chest playfully. It’s the closest thing he gets to being friendly. Steve rubs at his sternum. He’ll never get over being in the presence of serial killers and none of them are actively trying to kill him. It’s kind of neat— being part of the pack somehow.

“So you’re safe?” Steve’s looking directly at Bucky.

“Yeah baby— we’re safe.” Bucky nurses at his drink, avoiding Steve’s gaze.

Steve frowns, feeling rather unwanted. Part of the pack his ass. If Bucky weren’t around, he’s sure as shit that Jack and Brock would be flaying him alive right now. He leaves the kitchen, forgetting to eat his soup and trudges into the hall to the bedroom. It’s dark and the tin roof isn’t hiding the rain anymore since he no longer has Brock’s booming voice to be distracted by.

He pads into the bathroom, relieving himself quickly before going to finish up getting ready for bed. Once in bed, he just stares up at the ceiling. It’s been awhile since he and Bucky— did stuff. He caresses his thighs, lightly slipping his fingers up and down. He keeps getting closer to his inner thighs. He’s already getting wet and his cock (he refuses to call it a clit) is swelling up like a good little boy. He’s about ready to start jacking off when he hears:

“Steve! Hey Steve!”

Groaning, he stands up, squirming a bit as wetness soaks into his briefs. He opens the door, peering out into the total blackness of the house. “Bucky?”

He goes back into the bedroom and puts on a shirt. He doesn’t want Brock or Jack to see his scarring on his chest. Once back in the hall, he peers into the dark, slowly making his way.

“This isn’t funny!” He’s answered with silence and the rain on the tin roof.

Sighing, he holds his hands out in front of him to guide him over into the kitchen. He fumbles for the light switch, finds it— nothing. “You’re fuckin’ shitting me.” He moves into the living room. “Whatever. This ain’t funny and I’m goin’ to bed.” He makes it two steps before someone grabs him by the throat and pushes him against the wall.

“Gotcha!” the person shouts.

Steve screams, kicking out and jerking in a rough grip. The hand squeezes around his neck and Steve tries to bring his hands up to their throat but more hands grab him. His whole body is ready to explode and he starts flailing wildly.

“Baby! Baby relax! It’s just a joke! You knew it was just a joke!” Bucky’s voice.

Steve’s two seconds away from a total breakdown. He sees Sharon’s face, can hear Harry’s mangled screaming. It’s not funny. It’s not a joke. They’re murderers and they were fucking around with Steve because it’s amusing.

Not part of the pack. Just the sheep that’s friendly with the wolves.

He shoves Bucky back, nostrils flaring. “I said it wasn’t funny! Did you fuckin’ even listen, Bucky?!”

Bucky clamps his mouth shut as the lights come back on. Jack appears moments later from the front door.

“It wasn’t funny,” Steve says again. He marches over to the bedroom and slams the door. He hates Brock and Jack. Steve used to think Bucky was the one in charge, but maybe he’d gotten that wrong. Brock seems to pull Bucky’s strings more than anyone. Jack will go along with just about anything. Brock’s sick in the head enough to betray his own friends. Steve doesn’t trust him.


Then

Steve sneaks up to the house, peering into the front window. He doesn’t know where Bucky or anyone else is. He knows they play tricks on people though, so he can’t imagine them already inside and killing. He’s still got time. He knocks on the door, urgently.

No one comes.

He knocks again.

“What the fuck’re you doin’?” Brock’s voice.

Steve turns around, huffing. “This isn’t right!”

Brock cocks a brow. He stands with his machete casually tossed over his shoulder. It’s clean. Good.

“Brock, please— we gotta stop this.”

“Why?” He moves forward, swaying with all the bravado he can muster. “Somethin’ the matter with what we do? I like to think of it as population control. Cull the weak and all that shit.”

“They’re not weak.”

“You lived and so far you’re the only one that actually fought back,” Brock says. His eyes are so dark Steve’s not sure if they’re actually brown or black. “Listen, man. They’re just people. They ain’t got shit to do that’s important. Bucky’s adamant about no families. Jus’ta buncha people.”

Steve sighs, staring at the ground. It looks blue in the moonlight. It’s wrong to let Brock do this. It’s wrong to just ignore the suffering of others when he could actually do something about it. He straightens up, shaking his head.

“I’m sorry, Brock. I can’t let you hurt those people.”

Brock tilts his head to the side, his feral grin mocking Steve.

“Knew Bucky couldn’t contain his little bitch.”


Now

Steve turns over in bed, sighing. Bucky’s still not come to bed. After Steve’s (justified) explosion, he hadn’t come back out. He didn’t answer the door when Bucky knocked on it and he didn’t say anything when Bucky slipped in muttering he was just getting some sweatpants. Steve’s done with being angry. Bucky isn’t like other people. His form of amusement is morbid, unrefined and explosive. Knocking back beers and talking is boring to Bucky. It’s not fair of Steve to be angry when he knew full well of Bucky’s interests.

He rolls out of bed, cringing at the coarse feel of the hardwood beneath him. Padding into the hall, he flips the light switch on. Call it a safety precaution.

“Hey Bucky? You awake?” He walks over to the sofa, seeing a crumpled up form with a thin and ratty blanket atop him. “I’m sorry I got so angry.”

Silence.

“You awake?” Steve reaches out and touches Bucky. It’s a hesitant little touch but firm enough to shake those broad shoulders. “Buck?”

Bucky turns to face him. Steve can’t make out his facial expression in the darkness.

“I’m sorry— you just scared me.”

“Did—” Bucky pauses for a long time. It’s such a long time that Steve’s not sure he actually said a word anymore. “Did it make you feel like— you know— back then?”

Steve sits on the couch, smiling when Bucky scoots a little to accommodate Steve. He knows Bucky well enough to know that sometimes simple questions are traps that Bucky’s luring someone into. Steve will never be able to tell if Bucky’s actually an innocent person or just someone with a huge void inside. He doesn’t even know his lover’s past. Bucky had a family and Steve never knew. People don’t just grow up to be murderers. Bucky was formed. Steve wants to know how.

“Not the same. I don’t think I’ve been that scared since that night.” Steve leans over Bucky, looking into the blackness. He thinks Bucky’s face is up here somewhere. “Did you want me to be?”

“Yes,” Bucky whispers. “I’m sorry.”

No, no he’s really not. He knows to apologize because apologizing begets sympathy. Steve doesn’t have sympathy for this. He accepts Bucky, but he doesn’t forgive him. It’s actually a fine line between love and hate. Steve loves Bucky. Steve hates what Bucky is. He turns a blind eye when he must, but he wishes he didn’t. It’s a desperate plea to get them to move somewhere closer to town. Steve just wants something normal. Hanging around a den of serial killers starts to wear on the nerves and his heart. He’s seen enough death now. He doesn’t want anymore.

“I love you, Bucky.” He presses a soft kiss to Bucky’s lips. “Come to bed with me?” He slinks his hand down to Bucky’s and pulls the man up. They walk into the bedroom and Steve helps settle Bucky onto his side. He sits by him, petting his hair. He takes care of this Bucky. The only Bucky that ever takes care of Steve is the one drunk on death and blood. It shames Steve to think that that’s the Bucky he loves the most. The one that could almost be human.

“Steve?”

“Hmm?”

“I wanna listen to music.”

Steve nods. The moonlight’s brighter in the bedroom. He can see the precious smile that lights up Bucky’s face. Blues, purples and shadows paint Bucky’s face to look more like a painting than a human.

“Javier Navarrete?” Steve asks. “I’d like to listen to Pan’s Labyrinth to sleep.”

Bucky nods again.

Steve goes over to the iPod dock and flicks on Spotify. He pulls up the soundtrack and settles on Moribund Tree & the Toad. It’s a sad melody. A melody that carries as much grief as Steve. Together they share the same space as a man so similar to a monster. The notes drift into the room like tears slipping down Steve’s face. They’re cold at first but they warm up into an accepting crescendo. It’s almost like the song is discussing Steve’s life with Bucky.

Hatred into acceptance and acceptance into love.


Then

Steve’s trembling. Brock’s got him pushed up against a tree with a leg wedged between his thighs. His face is pressed into the bark and he’s actually worried if he opens his eye that he’ll get tree bark in it.

“He’s fucked you, right?” Brock asks, snaking his hands up to Steve’s hips. He gets his rough fingers beneath the hem of Steve’s shirt and digs his nails into the bone.

“I mean— I’d honestly feel bad if he didn’t get your cunt before I do.”

Steve sees red. Of all the words Brock could’ve chosen, he chose one of the worst. Not only is it blatantly disrespectful of anyone with a vagina, but it’s a disgusting word to the core and Steve has never nor will he ever say it. He shoves backwards, banging his head into Brock’s. He turns from the hip, swiveling to shove a sloppy kick into Brock’s chest.

Brock grabs Steve’s foot, twisting and bringing Steve down with him. “You little bitch!”

It’s almost comical— the words Brock uses. He has no idea Steve’s trans. But Steve’s clear on Brock’s views of women and Steve doesn’t share the sentiment one bit. It drives an anger so dense into Steve that he has to groan to find breath.

Steve straddles Brock, pulling his arm back and getting ready to beat down on this pathetic excuse for a person’s fucked up face. He tenses when someone grabs his wrist.

Bucky’s standing above them, his duck mask slid up and casually to the side. His face is blank— and that’s when Steve feels an icy pain bloom in his mouth. He goes sideways and finds his face getting familiarized with the grass.

“Brock!” Bucky shouts. “What the fuck, man?!”

“Your— your guy was gonna blow this whole thing up!” Brock spits. “Talkin’ ‘bout how we need’ta stop, man.”

Bucky looks at Steve, his face still unreadable.

Steve just sits on the ground, gripping the sticky blades of grass. His chest is heaving, lip bleeding and heart racing. Brock’s a son of a bitch and Steve would love to see a knife dig between those eyes. If Steve didn’t have such a moral conviction against doing it, he’d be plotting it right now.

“Let’s go, Steve,” Bucky says.

“But—”

“I said let’s go.” Bucky turns for the truck, shoving his hands into his pockets. The air around him is foggy and thick. He looks like a demon retreating into the abyss. Before he’s swept up in the fog, Steve watches him take the mask and roughly pull it from his head.

“Scurry on home, scrub,” Brock says. He spits again. “I’ll fuck that pretty little ass of yours one day.”

Steve bites the inside of his cheek. Brock can never know about Steve’s body. Steve can already see the nightmare in his head as he walks away. Brock would absolutely delight in taking Steve like that. He’d do every single thing in the book to make Steve feel like scum and dirt. Brock can never know…


Now

Steve sees Bucky through the kitchen window. He’s crouched over something and hasn’t moved in a long time. Steve’s elbow deep in the dishes (they don’t have a dishwasher). He strains to see what’s at Bucky’s feet, but Bucky’s turned from him. He steps back, grabbing a towel.

Outside, he wraps around the shack and stands beneath one of the pine trees. It’s leaning toward the coast and Steve’s pretty sure it’ll fall right in one day. He hopes they’ll be moved and long gone by then. He’s not entirely sure how the piping is beneath the shack and is certain there’s roots all tangled with them.

“Buck? You hungry?”

“No.”

“Thirsty?”

“No.”

Steve walks closer, leaning a bit to see what Bucky’s got. He’s got a dead fox. His hands are inside its belly and he seems to be working one up the rib cage.

“Was that already dead?” Steve asks, hoping.

“No.”

Steve steps back. He always cries when animals get killed. If he had to choose between three dogs and fifteen humans, bye-bye fifteen humans. “What’re you doin’ with it?”

“Tryin’a see if I can get my hand from its belly out its mouth.”

“Anatomy doesn’t work like that Bucky. The stomach’s got—” He winces when he hears something crunch.

“Does now.” Bucky’s smiling, holding up the dead fox as it drips blood on the ground. Bucky’s metal hand is shoved up inside it and its fingers are barely peeking from its mouth. It’s the fox’s eyes that make Steve turn away. Eyes that plead and beg. You could stop this. He turns away, wiping the tears before they have a chance to fall.

“I’ll make us some lunch anyway. Ya gotta eat, Buck.”

“I’ll eat this.”

“Bucky,” Steve says, tired of Bucky’s— whatever this is— behavior, lifestyle, personality. “Come inside and let me feed you a damn meal!”

Bucky frowns. He tugs his metal arm from the fox and walks over to the rocky coast. He takes a long time just staring out over the rocks. Waves crash loudly against the drop. Steve occasionally feels a few drops of sea spray hit him. Finally, Bucky drops the fox and it goes crashing into the sea below them. He turns and makes his way for the house.

Steve stares at the waters below, wondering if the fox had a family…

Once inside, Steve silently makes their lunch. They don’t have much. Pasta and rice usually make up most of their meals. They harvest most of their food and Bucky really does hunt deer and other animals for food. Steve usually doesn’t have an issue when there’s a purpose to it. He kills those animals respectfully. He doesn’t perform terrible experiments on their bodies or shove his fist inside them. Bullet to the head preferably and then he’s bringing it back home to skin.

Steve decides a veggie lettuce wrap sounds best and he goes about chopping up the carrots, onion and tomato. The house is quiet. Bucky’s not playing any music (so Steve knows Bucky’s not in a happy mood). Steve stares out the window at the coastal drop behind their home. If Bucky ever killed Steve, would he also drop him from that height?

“Shit!” Steve screams. He brings his bleeding finger to his mouth and starts sucking at it.

Bucky runs into the room, his eyes round. “You okay?”

“En-ger,” Steve says around his finger. “I mean I cut my finger.” He clutches it to his chest, his other hand wrapped safely around it.

“Do you need a bandage? There’s Neosporin in the bathroom.”

Steve looks at the wound, watching the blood seep out and drip to the floor. “Maybe stitches.”

Bucky steps closer, snatching Steve’s hand. “It’s so pretty.”

Steve freezes, watching. Bucky collects some of the blood on his finger and brings it to his lips. He smears it around before darting that pink tongue around, licking himself clean. Bucky’s always enjoyed the sight of blood. It came as a surprise to Steve once. It was foolish to believe blood wasn’t a turn on for Bucky. Steve had scraped up his knees and eventually he’d found himself pressed to the wall with Bucky between his thighs, mumbling about how badly he wanted to nibble at them. It turned Steve on.

Steve doesn’t like to talk about that much anymore. He made the mistake of telling Nat how it made him feel and she delighted in it. Said there was a killer in Steve yet. He didn’t like that.

“You can suck on it,” Steve says. Admission or not, Steve can feel a warm pulse between his legs. Seeing Bucky aroused gets him aroused. No use in trying to lie to himself.

Bucky licks his lips again before wrapping them around Steve’s finger. His tongue finds the cut and helps guide the blood into his mouth. Steve’s mouth drops open, watching Bucky suckle against the digit. Steve’s briefs are getting wet. Blood’s filling him up and he can feel his cock twitching.

“Bucky,” Steve breathes out. “Touch me.”

Bucky crowds against Steve, reeking of blood and earth. His metal arm is in the living room and in the grand scheme of things, Steve should’ve asked Bucky to wash his flesh hand, but it’s too late now. Bucky keeps sucking at Steve’s finger. He swirls his tongue around it, pulling more and more blood into his mouth that’s staining his tongue red.

Steve groans when Bucky rocks against him, pressing his massive body into him. Steve wraps his other hand around Bucky’s neck, reaching up and tugging at his hair.

Bucky gasps. He growls around Steve’s finger, biting down hard enough to make Steve yelp. Steve finds himself tasting copper as Bucky’s tongue slips into his mouth. A hand is snaking into his pants and palms against him.

“Want my mouth around your pretty little cock?” Bucky whispers gruffly. He nibbles on Steve’s bottom lip. “God, you’re so wet.”

Steve whines, nodding. Bucky may be a lot of bad things: a bad man, a twisted human, a sinner— but he’s the most understanding person when it comes to what Steve wants and how Steve needs to be treated. Steve pushes Bucky to his knees. He leans back into the counter, gripping its edges as Bucky slips his pants down.

Steve hates looking. He knows his dick isn’t a dick. It’s an oversized clit and it’s not the most beautiful thing. Hurtful words flitter into his mind. Mangled roast beef. He’ll never forget the first time he tried to be intimate with another man as his true self. He’d never seen someone become so profoundly disgusted so fast.

“Steve,” Bucky whispers, his breath hot near Steve’s throbbing lips. “You okay?”

Steve nods, swallowing. “Y-yeah.” He coils his fingers into Bucky’s hair. “Yeah I’m okay.”

Bucky kisses his thigh before nibbling. It’s soft and romantic little gestures like this that make Steve remember what kind of man Bucky can really be. He wears so many masks, but this Bucky— the one that loves Steve above anything, cherishes him and his body— this is the one Steve loves the most.

“You’re a beautiful man, Steve.” He licks at Steve’s tip and Steve almost doubles over. “Now can I suck this cute cock or what?”

Steve smiles, gasping. Words evade him and Bucky moves in, claiming Steve intimately and bringing him to a delicious climax not but minutes later…

And then doing it all over again.


Then

Steve’s in the truck. He’s got a tablet and is sketching lines that lead nowhere on it. Bucky spent the last of his savings on this tablet for Steve. You’re an artist. You should be able to do art anywhere. It was the most touching thing Steve ever got to experience. They’re begging Nat for leftovers but life could be worse. Steve could be dead, even.

Someone bolts from the front door. They’ve got long hair and a dress that’s been ripped up to the pelvis. She’s crying and screaming help, help, someone help us!

Steve just sits in the car. He goes back to his sketch, drawing a screaming woman’s face instead of aimless lines. He’s almost finished with it when he hears a bone-crushing thud. He looks up and sees Brock with a rubber mallet and a mess of limbs beneath him. It’s the woman. Steve can tell by the dress— though it’s really just a shirt now. The bottom-half has been torn off.

Brock pulls out his cock and starts jerking off over her dead body. Steve looks away. He starts to color in the shading around the screaming woman’s eyes. This isn’t the woman who just died. It’s someone else. Maybe it’s the omnipresent fear in everyone. Steve’s not sure. All he knows is that he wants to make it pretty enough for Bucky to smile at. He loves when Bucky smiles.

Steve’s opening another canvas. Lines and circles start taking shape and then there’s pouted lips, refined jaws and sharp cheekbones. He blinks down at the drawing. It’s Bucky. He’s not smiling or even sporting any kind of expression. But it’s the face that Steve knows well. The look of a man who knows he doesn’t deserve life but has it all the same.

When Steve looks up again, Brock’s got his hand in Jack’s pants and they’re grinding next to the dead woman. Steve doesn’t look back up again till someone opens the truck door.

It’s Nat.

“Heard you got a show tonight.”

Steve doesn’t respond. He’s not sure if she’s talking about Brock brutally murdering a woman with a rubber mallet or Jack and Brock fucking next to her dead corpse.

He never finds out what she meant either.


Now

“Three houses,” Steve says as he puts his laptop in front of Bucky. Bucky blinks, setting his whetstone down. He doesn’t drop the knife though. “With my college fund, a bank loan and all our savings, I think we can choose from these three houses.” He points to the laptop. His personal favorite is the blue cottage with the white picket fence. Call him a sucker for American traditionalism. The white picket fence is the epitome of a happy home. It’s also far away from the coast and Steve wants to make sure Bucky can’t go into any forest and start killing foxes too easy.

“I like that one,” Bucky states, pointing to Steve’s least favorite house. It’s got a long driveway, and three bedrooms. It’s tucked away by some trees and the neighborhood is mostly in a forest but it’s at least a short bike ride from Main Street.

“It’s so— isolated. And it’s brown.”

“I can paint it for you,” Bucky says. “Whatever color you want, baby.”

Steve looks at the pictures, scrolling through them. The kitchen could be bigger (granted it’s huge in comparison to this place), there’s only one bathroom and it’s the furthest away from town of the three houses. But Bucky likes it, and that’s enough to make Steve really consider it.

“How ‘bout this— we go see all three and you can tell me what you think of ‘em. Okay?” Life’s all about compromises, Steve thinks.

Bucky looks at the computer again. He blinks slowly. Steve starts to wonder if he’s nodding off. “Sure. Still think killin’ someone in a nice house would be easier.”

Steve rolls his eyes. “You’re not killing anyone for their home. Who’s to say the people who inherit would even sell it.”

“Kill the people who inherit and it goes to the bank,” Bucky says back. He’s given this a lot of thought. That or he just understands how death works. Probably that.

“Let’s just go see these houses, okay?” Steve clicks through the blue cottage one again, his heart yearning for it. “This one’s even got a cute little library with recess lighting.”

“That other one has trees.” Bucky turns back to the knife he was sharpening. “I like trees.”

“You like isolating me from humanity.” Steve straddles Bucky, wrapping his hands behind Bucky’s neck. “You afraid I’ll find someone better?”

Bucky smirks. “Always, baby.” He tilts his head up. It’s the cutest gesture, so Steve waits for a moment, watching Bucky’s eyes slip closed. They share a slow kiss. Bucky’s fingers are up in Steve’s hair and Steve’s grinding down over Bucky’s cock. It’s been awhile since they fucked. Steve’s usually not one to bottom— dysphoria making it hard and all— but he gets so wet for Bucky. He wonders if maybe they could try.

“Bucky.” Steve gives his lover another kiss. “Do you think— do you mind that— um— do you wanna maybe,” he swivels his hips, working his body over Bucky’s, “make love to me?”

Bucky blinks. “I do make love to you.”

“Not with a strap-on. I mean put your dick in me. I’ve got— I mean it’s still a perfectly good pussy.”

“Don’t call it that.” Bucky’s response is so fast that it startles Steve.

“Why not? That’s what it is.”

“But does it upset you when you talk about it?”

A little sound escapes Steve. He contemplates how he feels about his body. Yes, he used to hate that he had a vagina. When he started T, he knew clitoral swelling would happen. He was excited, praying it’d be a few inches so he could at least hide his lips and just say he had a messed up dick. But his clit isn’t always so huge, but it’s always poking out and there’s no denying that thing is a pussy. So yes, it used to upset him. He even thought of getting bottom surgery but with the chance of orgasm so low, he chickened out.

But with Bucky, Steve doesn’t feel so angry about it. He’s got a vagina— so what? He’s a man and a man loves him. When everything started with him and Bucky, he was still so angry. He was angry at being born wrong and angry at the fear and terror of transitioning. He was angry at every woman happy to be who she was and angry at every man because they got to be them.

Steve’s not that angry anymore.

He cups Bucky’s face, eyes warm as they drink up Bucky. He’s already throbbing and swelling up. “I love my body.”

Bucky doesn’t say anything.

“I won’t always love it. And yeah— there’s gonna be times where I hate it. But, you’re helpin’ me really love me. And you love me. I’m not a freak. I’m just a guy who happens to have a pussy and a tiny dick. I don’t mind you callin’ it a pussy, or vag or peach or— hell, even a taco.”

Bucky laughs. His eyes crinkle up and there’s the cutest little sparkle in them from the kitchen light overhead. It’s moments like these that Steve remembers why he stayed. Bucky never manipulated him. He never asked Steve to change who he was. He never got angry at him. Steve stayed because Bucky earned his trust. Simple as that.

“So does your hot dog wanna play with my taco?”

Bucky snorts. He covers his face with his other hand but Steve can see how red he’s getting. Steve’s grinning like a jackass and giggling. It’s a beautiful moment and Steve doesn’t want it to end. He feels so good— making jokes about sex and genitals. Who the fuck cares? They’re just pieces of a body. It’s the mind and soul that matter. Steve needed to transition because it helped him claim himself. But he doesn’t need to take away the good parts too. His body is his. Vagina, little dick and all.

“I love you, Steve.”

“Good.” Steve kisses him. “I’m amazing.”


They pull up to the first house. It’s the blue cottage with the shingled siding and white roof. The picket fence is reflecting the sunlight, beckoning the eye to stare. Big pink and purple flowered bushes hug the house. Steve can already see himself trimming them while Bucky’s out back working in the vegetable garden. The lawn’s large enough for their garden— maybe even a chicken coop. Bucky tends to like fresher products. Steve likes the idea of having chickens.

“The kitchen’s newly remodeled,” the realtor says as they open the gate and walk up the pebbled walkway. “Quartz countertops, gas stove and a movable island in case you need more space. It can also be a breakfast table.”

Steve nods, listening. He looks over at Bucky and the small smile he’s been sporting fades away. Bucky’s got his hands jammed into his hoodie. He’s staring at his beat up sneakers. Steve reaches for his metal hand and wraps his fingers around it. Bucky doesn’t even notice so Steve tugs a bit. They lock eyes. Bucky eventually looks away again. Steve’s heart sinks in his stomach. He just wants Bucky happy. But he can’t be unhappy at Bucky’s expense. He’s isolated up at the shack. It’s got a leaky roof, the internet is shoddy and good luck trying to brush your teeth while someone’s got the kitchen sink going. Steve just wants a bit of normalcy. He wants to walk into town and check out the vintage shops or get a dog and go through the park. He wants to actually see the people he moved up here for. Sam, Peggy, Scott— everyone. He doesn’t even have a working cell phone to reach out to them. He’s been emailing every so often but even that’s not all that much. The only person he has is Bucky and sometimes it’s hard to relate to him. Steve doesn’t like playing with dead animals. He doesn’t like murdering people despite…

He clears his throat. That’s enough of that for now. They walk into the house and are greeted by tall ceilings, a nice ceiling fan and recess lighting in each room.

“The attic is a crawl space. You can use it for smaller storage. There’s a basement though for laundry,” the realtor says as they walk from the front room into the dining room. “It’s a good size. Could host a party of about eight.”

Steve likes the built in nook for chinaware in the corner. They walk into the kitchen and Steve feels his heart tug. Shiny white quartz counters, wood ceiling, drop down lamps that’re simple and yet so elegant. There’s a few bar stools and a big window that can be cranked open to let in the breeze. Jesus, he wants this house. There’s all the appliances he could ever need (heaven help him if he has to hand wash another fork again).

“This can’t be in our price range,” Bucky says. Steve can practically hear his heart deflating.

“It’s higher,” Steve admits hesitantly. “But I’ve done the numbers. We can afford it with a loan.”

“And the neighborhood?” Bucky asks the realtor. He looks like a homeless guy in comparison to their neatly dressed realtor. She’s got her hair all done up, makeup pristine and she’s even in a blazer. Bucky’s all grunged up with dirty clothes, scuffed up shoes and dirt under his nails. “What’s the demographic?” It always surprises Steve when Bucky asks relatively normal questions.

“Mostly families,” the realtor answers, bobbing her head. “They’re around your age. Some elderly. Lot’s of children.”

“How do they feel about gays?” Bucky crosses his arms.

The realtor startles. She smooths out her blouse. “There’ve never been any gays here. But it’s a quiet neighborhood.”

Bucky shakes his head. “We’re not buying it, Steve.” He turns for the door.

“Bucky— wait!” Steve reaches after him but Bucky’s already in the dining room. He stumbles to a stop, looking at the staged room. Plates and fake flowers all assembled to make the buyer salivate for the home. It’s working. Steve wants it so badly and he hasn’t even seen the rest of the house except for the pictures online. There’s a library in the back. Steve could stock the shelves full of books and lounge all day by the bay window.

“There’s hardly any crime here,” the realtor says to Steve. She sounds sympathetic. “I really don’t think anyone would mind you two. And the Silent Soldiers have never been to this neighborhood.”

Steve turns around. “Silent Soldiers?”

“The— well you know. The serial killers. The housing market is plummeting because of them.”

Steve snorts. He leans against a wall, shaking his head. Maybe it’s a good thing Bucky doesn’t want to be here. At least these people could be left alone. “Thanks for showing us the place.” His heart audibly cracks in his ears. “But I guess it’s a no.”


Then

Steve’s walking through the aisle, his gaze flicking from side to side as he scans all the masks. He’s supposed to pick one. They’re in a joke shop that is a purveyor of vintage masks and other eccentric novelties. Steve even saw a wooden saddle for women before silicone was a thing.

Bucky comes up behind him, grabbing his hands and kissing the back of his neck. “See one you like yet?” He nibbles on Steve’s ear.

Steve leans into Bucky, humming. “Not yet. So many.”

Bucky smiles, growling soft against Steve. “God, I wanna fuck you so bad.”

Steve’s heart twists. Excitement and trepidation pile into him. Bucky’s never seen him yet. He knows— Steve’s talked about it. But seeing is different than knowing. It’s easier to pretend everything down there is just like Bucky’s. It’s not.

Bucky pulls back. Steve sees the moment Bucky realizes what’s going on in Steve’s head. “I mean— no rush. Whenever you’re ready.”

“I know,” is all Steve can say. He turns away, trying to swallow the lump in his throat when he sees a spackled, glittered Venetian mask. He picks it up, cringing at the price tag. “Oh man.”

“What? You like it?” Bucky peers over his shoulder.

“It’s too expensive.”

Bucky snatches the mask, putting it up to Steve’s face. He contemplates, chewing his metal thumb. “It suits you. Brings out your eyes.”

“It’s two-hundred dollars.” Steve pries the mask off and sets it back on the stand. “I’ll just get a rubber one or something.”

“No,” Bucky says. He’s adamant with wide shoulders and chin raised high. “I want your first time to be great. And I think you’ll be beautiful like this.”

“I can’t ask you for this,” Steve whispers. “That’s a lot of money, Buck.”

Bucky grabs the mask again and turns for the checkout. “You’re worth a lot more, Steve.”

Steve gawks, watching his lover walk up to the register and causally make small talk with the cashier. Bucky’s an endless vault of surprise. Just when Steve thinks he’s got him all figured out, Bucky surprises him again. First saving Steve, then his gentle caretaking, the conversations, the gifts— that first so very confusing kiss. Bucky cried after. Steve smiles, reminiscing. Bucky had said he’d never felt his heart pump so hard before. He likes the way Steve makes him feel. Steve likes the way Bucky makes him feel.

Natasha comes to stand next to Steve, popping her chewing gum loudly. She looks over at Steve, lazily with eyes so uninterested Steve’s not even sure how she’s even here or functioning. “Get you a mask?”

“Yeah.”

“He really cares for you, you know?”

Steve nods. “Yeah.”

“No.” Nat stands in front of Steve, her brow furrowed. She wants to make her point crystal clear. Steve doesn’t move a muscle. It’s not smart to disregard Natasha Romanov. Steve seems to be the only person alive to tell that tale.

“I would’ve ripped you to shreds, ate your tongue and cooked your cock.”

Steve feels sick.

“He upset the pack for you. That makes you important and terribly dangerous. ” She steps closer, grabbing Steve’s hip. “You’re a threat to us, so you better risk your life for him. He’s risked his for yours.” She skips over to Bucky, reaching for some candy and getting Bucky to buy it for her. Steve just stands there gawking. He’s a threat… to them?


Now

Steve’s lying in their dingy bed with the dingy ceiling dingily staring down at him. He hates this bedroom. The window’s tiny and there’s more bed than there is actual room. It smells like rotting wood. He looks up at the headrest and sees the little divots in the wood where he’d worked so hard to get free once upon a time. On top of a new house, he wants new furniture. God, he’s going to be so broke. You’re already broke…

Bucky comes in not long after. He drops onto the bed and pushes his face into Steve’s arm. Steve takes the hint and wraps his arm over Bucky’s shoulders. Bucky may have trouble with his words, but he never has trouble with his actions— especially with Steve.

“You really liked that house today,” Bucky says. “Didn’t you?”

Steve sucks in a breath. He strokes his fingers through Bucky’s hair and tries to come up with some reason why he didn’t like the house. He’s always been a terrible liar. He loved that house.

“I’m sorry,” Bucky whispers.

“No you’re not,” Steve says back. Always with the apologies but never with the meaning. “You gonna move into that house with me?”

Bucky’s silent for a long time. They lie in their rotting shack, listening to the floors creak and the wind knock into the walls. Steve’s sure this place will just fall into the ocean one day. Just like that dead fox… Bucky kills everything he touches. It’s just a matter of time. Steve’s pretty sure that includes himself. He doesn’t know when or if something would happen. But it’s a high possibility he could die by Bucky’s hand. He almost did once.

“No,” Bucky says. “It’s not right for me.”

“Why not?” Steve sits up, looking at Bucky head-on.

Bucky curls in on himself. He’s looking up with round eyes on a face that clearly doesn’t want to explain. Steve’s not going to let him out of this. Steve wants that house and if he’s going to give it up he needs to understand why.

“It’s not,” Bucky grimaces, “it’s not me.”

“So this is you?” Steve gestures around the room. “Peeling wallpaper, scuffed up hardwood and a leaky roof?”

Bucky bites his lower lip. Steve sighs in exasperation. He knows he’s being selfish. Bucky never asked that Steve change for him. Steve should have the decency to return the sentiment. He doesn’t. He may remain silent on Bucky’s evils, but they are evils. Steve isn’t evil. Maybe. He’s not so sure anymore. He’s done a lot that he now regrets during his time with Bucky.

“We’re gonna see the brown house tomorrow,” Steve says with a slump to his shoulders. “It’s got a huge yard, lots of trees and I can bike into town from it.”

Bucky perks up. “And it’s quiet?”

Steve smiles, caressing a hand through Bucky’s hair. “And it’s quiet.”

Bucky scoots into Steve, tossing an arm over his stomach. He nuzzles into Steve’s side. His nose is tickling Steve’s ribs. Steve clenches his teeth to keep from laughing. He cuddles closer to Bucky and continues to stroke his fingers through that mess of brown hair. The air around them stills and even the crickets outside seem to pause. It’s like they’re all waiting for something.

Steve starts humming. Bucky’s eyes snap open but he’s delighted. “Tili Tili Bom?”

Steve nods. “I listened to it. Even know all the words.”

“Sing it? Please?” Bucky is clinging to Steve’s every move with anticipation. He only relaxes when Steve nods and continues to swipe his hands through strands of hair.

“Tili Tili Bom, swiftly close your eyes— someone is walking outside the house…”

Steve sings the words, off-key and sometimes the English doesn’t flow with the Russian words. Bucky relaxes into him, sighing ever so often and nuzzling.

They fall asleep with Steve pushed up against the headrest and Bucky snoozing soundly on Steve’s stomach.


Bucky’s much more interested in the brown house. Steve’s already noting that they need to update the bathroom and kitchen but in the grand scheme of things, it’s not that bad. Steve hadn’t seen it in the online pictures, but the den has glass doors that show off the woods and yard behind them. There’s even a small pond with an old willow tree to keep it from getting too large. It’s not the closest thing to town but Bucky likes it. Steve can’t take that away from him. He’s peeking into each room with bright eyes and actually smiling. Even the realtor seems happy that Bucky’s happy.

“To my knowledge, there’s no offer on the house yet, so we could put in a good bid,” the realtor says. “I know it’s not as cute as the cottage but it’s got nice New England rustic charm.”

“The driveway’s gonna be a pain to shovel in the winter,” Steve says. “You prepared to shovel for me, baby?” He grins smugly at Bucky.

“I’ll do whatever you want, just let me have this house.”

Steve offers a big smile. His heart is swelling seeing Bucky so animated. He looks out the glass doors again, deciding they’ll put up a hammock near the willow tree. It’ll be nice to read near the pond (Steve needs to start buying copious amounts of bug spray).

“What’re your plans for the third bedroom?” the realtor asks. Steve’s good mood is halted as a terrifying thought detonates in his mind. Third bedroom.

“Uh—”

Bucky comes up behind Steve, putting his hands on Steve’s shoulders. “Office for this one.” He kisses Steve’s cheek. “He’s an artist.”

The realtor’s face falls. “So, no children yet?”

Steve glares. It’s the worst topic to him because he is so conflicted about it. He wouldn’t mind having kids running around their house but Bucky… Would it even be safe to have a helpless baby around? And technically (actually no, in the most literal sense), the baby could be theirs— biologically. Steve still has all his parts. He’d just need to stop T and find a trans safe OBGYN. He feels something tug in him and offhandedly wonders if it’s his uterus. He wants children. He’s just not sure how and that aside, he’s not sure if Bucky could be trusted with them.

“We’re not having kids,” Bucky says. There’s absolution in his voice and Steve feels himself deflating. They’d never even talked about it.

The realtor just smiles. She’s stuck in an awkward position, Steve can see it in the way her shoulders are too tense. She’s breathing stiffly. She moves around the kitchen island (it’s a standard plastic linoleum. Steve longs for the shimmering quartz from the cottage). Maybe when he starts getting a steady flow of jobs. He needs to figure out how to even market himself. He should start painting cute touristy stuff for Mystic. That could bring in some general money. There’s no way Bucky will ever get a job. He wonders how Bucky’s supported himself all these years. Does he steal from the people he’s killed?

“So, bid?” the realtor asks. Steve nods, pulling out his documents just to make sure he can actually afford the house.


Then

Steve’s got his pretty Venetian mask on. He’s staring into the bathroom mirror, turning his head from side to side. He hears someone screaming but elects to ignore it. He’s not here to help or harm. He’s here to sketch. He’s been curious. There’s a strange power in being able to walk among murderers and rapists without fearing them. He makes sure to avoid Brock as much as possible, but he knows the others won’t hurt him.

Jack walks by the bathroom, peeking in and then giving a quick salute. He continues on down the hallway and finds a girl. She’s screaming wildly and then Steve hears a lamp crash. He looks to his sketch book. He’s got some rudimentary drawings of ways to peel the body apart. Bucky’s transfixed on butterfly ideas. This one has skin on the back peeled up to show the backs of the ribs. There’s cuts along the legs that ebb and flow like tiger markings. Tiger butterfly. Bucky’s going to do it on someone tonight. Steve had drawn a female. He assumes one of these girls will meet this fate.

He’s officially an accomplice to murder. He’s been for awhile now but this is different. His drawings will become real. And he’ll then sketch the people that it happens to. He turns from the bathroom, turning the corner and seeing a body run into one of the rooms. He knows it’s not one of his gang. He stands there, listening to something like a shoebox fall in the room. He’ll never know why he moved when he did, but he finds himself moving toward the room. He stands there, looking around. It’s a nursery.

He knows someone’s here, but he decides to look at the cradle and its pink lining. Someone was having a girl, or had they already had her. Steve’s heart pangs. He… no. He was never a girl. He wore a female’s body— probably one he stole from someone more deserving. He’s always loved the female form. It just was never for him. He moves around the room, looking at the stuffed animals in all their pastel wonder. He finally sits on the rocking chair.

“I hid in the closet,” he says. No response. “I listened to one of my friends die out at the lake. Could hear him screaming but I didn’t move.” Steve rocks back and forth lazily. “I was so scared that I gave up who I am to hide. I’ve always thought that protecting people was more important than saving myself. But then the moment actually happened and I was shitting myself.” He waits, listening to the silence around him. He looks to the closet. “Are you in the closet too?” He takes his mask off and smiles its way.

He’s not sure what he’s doing. This person is doomed to die unless Steve can find a way to get them out. Maybe it’s the similar experience of finding someone in a closet that makes him hope no harm comes to them. He wonders if he can even get them out.

Then he realizes he’s removed his mask. They have to die…

Steve stands up, slipping the mask back on. “Good talking to you. For what it’s worth, I do feel sorry for you.”

The closet door opens. A woman comes out. She’s got tumbling auburn hair and elven features— and a swollen belly. She stands there, staring at Steve with trepidation. Her hand is on her stomach as if shielding the baby from the horrors inside the house.

Steve gawks. Bucky said he doesn’t kill children. This woman is pregnant and there is a child in there.

“You’re pregnant,” Steve says. Of course she’s pregnant, but hearing it and thinking it are two different concepts right now and Steve’s brain is short circuiting.

The woman looks down, strokes her stomach and then nods. She’s lithe, Steve thinks, but there’s some kind of power that radiates from her skin. Steve wonders if it’s the pregnancy glow. She’s almost luminescent in the moonlight.

“Are you going to kill me?” She has a faint accent. Steve’s not sure where but he’d bet Eastern Europe.

Steve shakes his head. “No. I’m not in the business of hurting people.”

“But you’re here, killing my family.” She steps forward, motioning around. “I hear them screaming.”

“We don’t hurt families,” Steve says. It’s more for himself. He steps back, looking at the door and then closes it. He shoves himself against it, staring. His heart is up in his throat and all he can hear is the wailing sounds of a child. There’s no children here but he can hear that child inside their mommy. It’s practically screaming at Steve. Monster, monster, monster.

“I’m here with my twin brother and my parents. We are indeed a family.”

“No,” Steve whispers. He swallows roughly, feeling soul crushed. “They promised.”

“Your friends? They’re murderers, what good is their word?”

“You don’t know him like I do.”

The woman smiles. She moves to the rocking chair and sits down. “You were hiding in a closet?”

“They killed my friends,” Steve says. He doesn’t like bringing up that night. It’s not that he denies what happened. He doesn’t rationalize or make excuses. They are murderers. But Bucky’s different— in a way that’s terrible but magnificent all the same. He loves Steve unconditionally. He’s thoughtful and patient. He even tried to make Steve leave and Steve just couldn’t.

“Why’re you with them?”

“I fell in love.”

“Simple enough.” She rocks quietly in the chair, caressing her swollen stomach. “I’m not married. I’m due soon, so if—”

There’s a pounding at the door.

“I’m in here!” Steve shouts.

“Steve? What’re you doin’ baby?”

Steve looks at the woman, his eyes desperate. He wants to lie, but he also feels that Bucky’s the one person who’d understand letting this woman go. He turns and opens the door, pulling Bucky in. He’s still got his stupid duck mask on and he’s got a bloodied machete. There’s a tear in his shirt and it’s weeping blood.

“You’re hurt,” Steve says, touching the wound.

“Guy used a knife on me,” Bucky says. Then he looks to the woman on the rocking chair and pushes his mask up. “Steve— no.”

“She’s pregnant,” Steve argues. “You can’t kill her.”

Bucky licks his lips, he looks from Steve to the woman and then back to Steve again. He whines, throwing the machete into the wall. The woman startles but she doesn’t move from the chair. Her eyes are clear and wide. She’s afraid, but she’s meeting this so much braver than Steve had.

“I can’t keep savin’ people, Steve,” Bucky says. “You realize what happened last time? The shit I got?”

“She’s got a baby in her!” Steve can barely keep his voice down. If someone else comes into here, it’s game over. Steve’s body is heating up as anger widens his veins. He wants to shake Bucky to get him to see reason. There’s an innocent unborn child inside this woman. Steve’s all for pro-choice when it comes to abortion, but this isn’t abortion. This is murder. “You saved me. We can just let her get away! No one has to know.”

“Nat picked her,” Bucky whispers, looking at his shoes. “Nat picked her, especially for her pregnancy.”

“No,” Steve says. “You said!” His eyes fill with tears. “You said no children!”

“That’s not a child, Steve! That thing doesn’t even know it’s alive!” Bucky yells back.

The woman cradles her stomach. Steve can see the moment she accepts death. Her shoulders slump and she tries to make herself as small as possible.

“If you wanna kill her,” Steve says, shoulders broadening. “You’re gonna have to go through me.”

Bucky’s mouth drops open. He stares for a long time. There’s a crash downstairs, plates or something. Bucky shakes his head, but he reaches for the machete and yanks it out of the wall. “Don’t make me do this, baby.”

“I won’t let you take an innocent life.” Steve’s scared. Death has always scared him. It’s not the pain of dying, or how long he suffers. It’s what’s after. He’s always been a God-fearing man but Steve’s done some pretty shitty things in his life now. He’s not so sure Heaven will be so accommodating.

“Steve,” Bucky whines. “Don’t make me do this.”

Steve shakes his head. He offers a small smile but there’s too much sadness in his eyes. “I’m sorry, Bucky. I won’t let you.”


Now

Moving is easy when there’s nothing to bring. Steve packed up his and Bucky’s clothes, took most of the items from the kitchen and the blanket on the ratty sofa. Other than that, they have to buy all new furniture— with loans. Steve’s already cringing. They’ll be paying everything back for years. It probably wasn’t the best decision to move. It would’ve saved them a lot of bank anguish and interest if Steve had just learned to live with it. He was so isolated though. All he had was Bucky there and it was driving him mad. He needs his friends again. He hasn’t seen them in so long. They all know he’s alive. They send emails but it’s always slow. They’re always teasing about how Steve’s choosing his boyfriend over them like kids in high school. To a degree, they’re not wrong. Steve chose a wicked man to love and stopped seeing genuinely good people. But it’s ending now. They’ve got a new house and Steve’s putting all the plates away.

Bucky’s walking around the land, probably scoping out for animals he can kill or something. Steve’s not exactly sure what Bucky’s doing really. He’s just outside.

Once finished, Steve looks around the empty house. They’ve got their beat up truck and should go into town to get the essentials. Steve wants to see about getting a booth outside an antique shop where he can sell his paintings if he gives a portion to the store owner. He hopes someone will take him up on that. He doesn’t exactly have the money to rent out a shop for an art gallery.

He walks outside, finding Bucky by the pond. “Hey!” He snakes an arm around Bucky’s waist and kisses his lover’s cheek. “Wanna go into town with me to get some furniture?”

Bucky continues to stare at the pond.

“Baby?”

“I heard you.”

Steve’s face sours. He rests his head on Bucky’s shoulder, looking at some frogs hopping around on the lily pads. They stand there for awhile, feeling the breeze and each other’s company. Steve likes all the sounds here. He can hear cars along the road but he also gets the sounds of the insects and birds. He loves hearing the cars.

“Do you really— are you really sure you want me to— um— well.” Bucky sighs, irritated at himself.

Steve frowns. “Do what, Buck?”

“You mentioned a few weeks ago that you wanted me to make love to you. It’s been on my mind for a long time.”

Steve looks away. They hadn’t talked about it since. They haven’t really done much except for the occasional kiss and hug. Bucky hasn’t even gone out killing anyone. That whole FBI situation has them laying low. They’ll go out to other places and kill when they find suitable targets.

“I don’t wanna do anything that makes you upset,” Bucky whispers. “I know you still get dysphoria. I don’t mind you fuckin’ me, baby. It makes you happy.”

“Honestly, Buck— a strap-on is a huge reminder that I don’t have a big enough cock to fuck you with.”

“We could get a penis pump? I read that helps make clits bigger.”

Steve laughs. This is why he’s so in love with Bucky. Bucky’s always thinking of how to make Steve happy. It’s silly stuff most of the time, a good meal or some snuggles on the couch. But when Bucky found out Steve was trans, instead of avoiding the subject and simply arguing “Steve is a man,” he researched how to avoid dysphoria as a partner, what’s okay and not okay to say, asked Steve his boundaries and his personal experience. He’s committed to Steve and supports him. It meant a lot the first night Bucky rolled over and spread his thighs for Steve. He’d never expected a cismale who’d never bottomed before to be so encouraging about it.

“We could,” Steve agrees. “But I’ve got a perfectly good pussy, Buck. It gets wet and insertion isn’t uncomfortable for me. I wanna do this.”

Bucky nods. He pulls away before quickly pecking Steve on the cheek. “Whatever you want, honey.”

“I want us to go get furniture. We’re gonna have to do multiple trips.” He grabs Bucky by the collar, pulling their noses together. “Besides, if we get a nice new bed, you can fuck me in it tonight.”

Bucky laughs, his eyes darkening. Steve’s glad he can see the lust Bucky has for him. Not all men have responded to Steve so enthusiastically. Some have been downright disgusted.

“I’m warm inside,” Steve gloats. “Warm and wet and I want you in me.”

“Jesus, Steve.” Bucky pulls their hips together, grinding his hardening cock on Steve. “I can’t go into town feelin’ like this.”

“Well,” Steve says, “it’s private out here. No neighbors around to see.”

“See what?”

Steve drops to his knees. He reaches up and undoes Bucky’s pants. “See me makin’ you come with my tongue.”

Bucky lets out a shuddery breath. He spreads his legs a bit, watching.

Steve enjoys this. If anyone were to tell him a blow job isn’t a power position for the one blowing, he’d tell them they’re an idiot. He slips Bucky’s cock out from his briefs, hard and reddening already. He sits up, kissing the tip a few times, being sure to flick his tongue over the slit. The hiss Bucky makes is all Steve needs to know he’s already torturing his lover. He swallows Bucky down, bobbing slower than Bucky likes, but he’s making a point.

He likes blowing Bucky outside. He can listen to the cars here. So he sucks on Bucky’s cock, making sure to use his tongue at the base of the head. He gets Bucky to come a few minutes later, delighting in the way Bucky fucks into him and tugs at Steve’s hair, come slipping down his throat.


In town, Bucky’s overly affectionate. He’s got his hands on Steve’s hips as they walk around the cramped furniture store. He’s whispering that’d be fun to make love on and I can see you sleeping there. He’s filling Steve’s head up with so much affection that Steve feels high. People are watching them, some with apathetic gazes, others more curious. No one outwardly malicious. That’s good. Steve’s too happy to really care had there been someone phobic. Bucky’s got his chest pressed to Steve’s back and they’re looking at furniture to fill their new home up with to start their new life. Steve’s happy.

“This sofa’s cute,” Steve says. He checks the price tag and winces. “Hey— uh, where’s a thrift store? Maybe we wanna check there for dining room stuff and see if they’ve got sofas too.”

Bucky crinkles his nose in thought. “Uh— I think it’s a street over?”

Steve turns around, snaking his arms around Bucky’s waist. “This is fun— me ‘n you like this.”

Bucky smiles, nuzzling his nose against Steve’s. “Yeah.”

“Excuse me?” someone says. Steve’s already preparing the freedom of expression speech when he turns to see a woman. “I just need to slip past you two is all!”

Steve smiles, nodding. She doesn’t care. It shouldn’t make Steve so happy but it does. They’re out in public being vastly touchy and she doesn’t care. She just needs to go down the aisle that they’re blocking.

“C’mon,” Steve says. “We’ll check the thrift store.”

They end up buying a sofa, two reading chairs and a bookshelf at the thrift store. Bucky’s in the process of playing Tetris with the furniture in the trunk when Steve sees a pair of familiar faces. He smiles brightly, waving them down.

“Steve!” Peggy shouts, laughing. “Oh my God, Steve Rogers!” She runs across the street with her girlfriend, Angie in tow.

“Hey Peg.” They hug and Steve gets a nice big red lipstick kiss on his cheek.

“You look so good! You’re so big!” Peggy runs her hand down Steve’s chest to his stomach. “You’ve been working out.”

“Gained some bone density too since starting T.” Peggy had known Steve his entire life. He’d been the overly tall girl on their basketball team that always did the tip off. Peggy was also one of the first people Steve came out to. Instead of hate, she’d welcomed him with open arms and provided him with so many trans support groups and information. She even went to the meetings with Steve.

“You look so handsome.” She cups his face. “I’m so happy to see you. You’re well? You’ve eaten? We were just going to get some lunch.”

“Uh—” Steve turns to look at Bucky. He’s about finished tying everything into the trunk. “We’re actually moving.”

“What? Away?” Angie asks. “We neva see you’s anymore!”

“No!” Steve puts his hands up to placate her worried expression. “Closer to town. I want to see everyone. I’m gonna try to start selling my art at a booth or somethin’. We’re kinda low on cash.”

“You could set up’n front of the dinah?” It takes a moment for Steve to realize she’d said diner. Despite growing up in Brooklyn, sometimes Steve forgets just how thick a New York accent really is.

“Really?” Steve asks, feeling a flood of relief. He grabs Angie’s hands, too excited not to jump up and down. She jumps along with him. “Angie you’re the best!”

Peggy just laughs, watching the pair.

“What’s goin’ on?” Bucky asks. He sticks close to Steve, but Steve realizes it’s more out of fear than adoration. He pushes his lips to Steve’s back and looks at everyone with his big doe eyes. His hands are in Steve’s back pockets. It’s seen as romantic, but Steve knows Bucky better. Bucky’s always been nervous around Steve’s friends.

“Angie’s gonna let me set up an art booth in front of her diner. I can start selling paintings there.”

Bucky nods. “Sounds good,” he mumbles into Steve’s shoulder. “Wanna get this stuff home.”

Steve’s face falls. He looks to his friends. They both realize what’s happening at the same time as Steve does. There’ll be no shared lunches today. He grimaces, shrugging.

“Another time?” he asks. “We’ve got a lot to do.”

“D’ya need any help?” Angie asks.

“No.” Bucky turns around and starts heading back to the truck.

Steve scratches the back of his head, trying his best to look sheepish instead of remorseful. They’d tried the whole group date thing once. Bucky ended up talking about the best way to gut an animal while it was still alive. Angie promptly fled to go puke and Peggy joked if Bucky was insane. Bucky hadn’t forgiven her. Peggy most likely never forgot about it.

“Sorry— he’s—”

“You’re busy,” Peggy says. “We understand.” She wraps an arm over Angie’s shoulders. “We’ll see you soon then, yes?”

“Absolutely. S-sorry about— well you know.” He shoves his hands into his pockets. Peggy’s been one of the best things to ever happen to Steve and Steve willingly let Peggy’s niece (they were close in age; extended family is weird like that) die at that lake house. She still doesn’t even know that Steve was there. Steve finds himself always apologizing to Peggy. He thinks it’s a subtle way of trying to express his guilt for what happened to Sharon.

“He’s good to you, that’s all that matters,” Peggy says. She turns with Angie and they share hushed words that Steve can’t hear. Feeling his feet fill with sand, he moves back to the truck to help Bucky.

They come back to town once they toss all they got into the living room. They plan on moving it properly around once home. Steve’s sure he can get his mom to mail him some pieces he did back at home for some decoration.

“We should throw a housewarming party,” Steve states.

“No.”

“Bucky, we need one. People’ll bring gifts and we need to fill that house with stuff.”

“So you’d abuse your friends’ trust to get gifts?”

Steve leans back in his seat. “Oh c’mon! It’s part of our culture.”

“I said no, Steve.”

Steve’s glaring. Steve has compromised on the house, he’d compromised on living in that godforsaken shack and now he’s supposed to compromise on his friends? This is what people do! Regular people, at least.

“We’re havin’ a fucking housewarming party. You can go huddle up in that fuckin’ shack if you need to.” Steve knew from the start they wouldn’t sell that land. It’s usable for their murdering exploits. Now it’s just a hangout for the Silent Soldiers. “Sit around talkin’ about how to gut people with your friends.”

Bucky grips the steering wheel harder, but he doesn’t say anything. They get into town and park. Bucky slams his door and trudges off toward the mattress shop. Steve’s too proud to say anything, least of all apologize. He has nothing to be sorry for because that’s exactly the kind of thing Bucky and his like talk about.

They silently go into the shop, silently purchase a mattress, and silently load it into the truck. Steve runs to the thrift store to see if they have bedsprings for the bed and then it’s hell getting that into the truck with Bucky refusing to come out and help tie it down under the mattress (though Steve does wonder how bad the prosthesis is hurting from all the physical exertion). Steve has to drag the mattress to the ground, put the bedspring in and then haul the mattress back up to tie everything down. He’s sweating something fierce by the time he’s finished.

Bucky refuses to go back into town again. He starts dragging furniture around the house and ignores Steve’s pointed glance. He’s putting things all in the wrong areas. The TV should go where the sofa is, the bookcase is blocking a window. Bucky sits on the couch and stares off into the distance.

Steve clicks his tongue and drives back into town alone. He can shop for smaller things like fake plants or end tables, maybe even some rugs.

They don’t sleep in the same room that night.


Then

Bucky’s hands are twitching. He’s got the machete up and Steve’s acutely aware he could die by machete tonight. The woman is standing at the wall, watching. One hand is clutching her chest and the other her belly.

“Baby, please,” Steve whispers. “You don’t have to.”

Bucky steps forward, and Steve shrinks back, a whine ripping from his throat. He’s terrified. Dying at the hands of his lover has always been on his mind. He’s not sure he’ll survive Bucky, even if somehow he survives tonight. But the reality of it sits on him too heavily. He’s crushing beneath, gasping and now tears are pushing from his eyes. He doesn’t want to leave Bucky.

Bucky turns the machete around and offers it out to Steve. “Cut me.”

“What?”

“I have to make it look believable. If she gets to escape, we have to make it look believable. So, ya gotta cut me up.”

“Bucky,” Steve whispers. “I can’t.”

“Then I will,” the woman says, prying herself from the wall.

“How do I know you won’t kill him?” Steve asks.

She straights up, looking so much larger than her tiny frame allows. Pride glows beneath her skin, like she’s been insulted. Steve likes her.

“I’m not a murderer,” is all she says.

Bucky hands the machete to her. “I don’t hafta tell you to avoid internal organs?”

She takes his duck mask and throws it to the floor. “No.”

Steve watches the woman work and cries silently as Bucky holds back moans of pain. She cuts his face, pushes her fingernails into his throat and digs them down. She rips at his shirt and claws down his forearms with her fingers. She then stabs him right through the thigh above the knee. Bucky falls to the floor, screaming.

He looks up at her, nodding. “Run,” he says through gritted teeth.

Steve takes the woman and together they make it down the stairs and Steve jumps through a window. He knows everyone’s heard but there wasn’t enough time to get the woman to a door. He helps her climb down and they hide in the bushes as Jack comes out. Steve’s breathing heavily. There’s glass in his shoulder and side of his face. He wonders if Bucky’s feeling the same pain right now.

“Jack!” he hears Nat scream. “Forget it! Bucky’s hurt!”

“What?” Jack turns and jogs back into the house. The woman makes a move to get up but Steve grabs her wrist. He knows how they hunt. They’ll wait to see someone run and if no one does, they’ll determine there was no one there. They stay there for ten minutes before Steve finally gets up and runs through the trees with the pregnant woman. She’s slower than him and he can’t exactly put her on his back, so he picks her up and together they run bridal-style.

Once far enough from the house, Steve can see streetlights and hear cars. He’s heaving and huffing as he sets her down. His limbs are absolutely trembling. She reaches up, picking shards of glass from his face.

“You’re very kind,” she says. “And he loves you very much.”

Steve tries to smile, but the glass makes it impossible.

“My name is Wanda,” she says. “That nursery wasn’t for my boys.”

“Boys?”

She looks at her stomach. “I’m carrying twins.”

Steve’s even happier he got her out, even if Bucky had to take a machete through the leg. He prays he’s okay. She didn’t hit his femoral artery so it should be alright, but he’s still in a lot of pain.

“I won’t describe your faces to the police. But I am telling them.”

Steve nods. He can respect that.

She comes up to him and stands on her tiptoes to give him a kiss on the cheek not full of glass. “Thank you.”

Steve watches her walk to the street until she turns the corner and is out of view. He sighs, looking at his shoulder. There’s shards of all sizes clinging to him. He spends a good twenty minutes just standing there and picking them out before finally deciding to go back.

Once there, Bucky’s on the couch with his leg wrapped. Nat’s hovering over him and holding his hand. Jack and Brock have rounded up the rest of the family and are circling them like sharks.

They all look up when they see Steve.

“Did you do this?” Nat all but growls. She’s about ready to lunge and Steve shakes his head before she decides it’s not worth the wait.

“Pregnant one got away.” He looks to the family and sees the relief in their eyes. “I chased her but she was fast.”

“A pregnant woman escaped you?” Brock asks, squinting in disgust. “You really are a scrub.”

“L-leave ‘im ‘lone,” Bucky tries to say. He’s gritting his teeth and his voice is a gruff mess. “Doesn’t matter.”

“What do we do about the rest then?” Jack asks. He cocks his gun, putting it to who Steve assumes is Wanda’s mother’s head. She starts crying and Steve realizes this is the minute he willingly gives up his soul. No God would accept him now.

“Kill ‘em slow,” Nat says. “Get back at that bitch for hurting Bucky.”

Bucky doesn’t participate but they do make the tiger butterfly out of Wanda’s mother. They torture her twin brother until his heart literally gives out and Jack just executes the father.

They swore they’d never kill a family. Steve guesses that was all just placating lies. He decides that night to make Bucky seriously reform his killing pattern. Sex offenders, people guilty who got off easy— them. Steve won’t let something like this ever happen again.


Now

Steve’s about finished setting up his art studio in the third bedroom when Bucky knocks on the door. He’s sporting a sorrowful demeanor and his hands are shoved into his jeans. Steve just waits.

“I’m sorry,” Bucky says. “I love you.”

“I know you love me.” Steve also knows Bucky isn’t sorry. Bucky’s never sorry. He just doesn’t understand the concept of how anyone couldn’t see it his way. “And I love you too.”

Bucky walks into the room, looking around. There’s not much in it. Steve went into town and got an easel, some paints and enough canvas to last him the month. He even got some sketch books just in case he needs to sketch out ideas when he’s around the town. He plans on visiting the pier soon. He wants to sketch people live. It’s been so long. It’ll feel good to watch people and sketch the curves of their shoulders and the hard lines of their legs.

“I really love you,” Bucky says. “I know— I know m’not good. I think about you every day and how I’ll feel when you finally leave me.”

“You think I’m gonna—”

“You will.” Bucky’s eyes fill up with tears. “You either leave me or I’ll kill you. So you need to be prepared to run from me.”

Steve drops his paint brushes.

“I’m evil, Steve. I’ll always be evil. But I’m— I’m glad you gave me a chance. I wanna ride this out as long as we can.” He steps forward, cautiously reaching out to Steve. “I’m so in love with you that I’ve gone mad.”

Steve steps back. It’s deliberate and he winces at the way the rejection mirrors off Bucky’s features.

“If you love me, why do you think you’ll kill me?”

Bucky scoffs. He steps around the canvases of varying sizes and looks out the window. “Because I love everything I kill.”

“That’s not—”

“Why do you think I love art so much? I use it in the way I bring death. You’re art. You’re art that creates art and sometimes I’ll daydream about listening to you cry as I’m cutting into your stomach or— or splitting you open from that cock I love so much.”

Steve feels positively sick. He feels sick because the moment Bucky said cock, something switched in Steve. He went from feeling disgusted to being turned on. He takes a step closer to Bucky, his mouth open and eyes wide.

“I wanna see how wide I can get your jaw before it snaps,” Bucky continues. It’s turning him on too. Steve can see it in the way those pupils are swallowing up his gray eyes. “Wanna taste your blood, bite that neck and hear you scream.”

“Jesus,” Steve gasps. He leans into Bucky’s wandering hands, going up to his neck and digging his fingernails in. He doesn’t scratch down, but it’s enough to make Steve wince in pain.

“Wanna know what color your lungs are.”

“Fuck me,” Steve whispers, pulling Bucky so they both collide against the wall. He wraps a leg around Bucky and then Bucky takes the hint.

Bucky picks Steve up, presses him against the wall and rocks into him, his cock hard against Steve’s pussy. It’s getting so wet already that Steve would rather they skip all concepts of foreplay and just fuck.

“You like the way m’talking?” Bucky nips at Steve’s throat. “How I wanna kill you so bad?”

“Yes,” Steve breathes out, wrapping his hands into Bucky’s hair. He looks at Bucky’s prosthesis and grimaces. “You’re straining.”

Bucky looks at his metal arm. He’s got it jammed up against the wall so it takes some of Steve’s weight but they both can see the strain it’s pulling as it pushes into Bucky’s body. “Bed.”

They run into the bedroom, tangling together with desperate kisses and sharp jerks of their hips. Steve’s so wet. He’s wet and throbbing and his stupid little cock is twitching up a storm and it’s the best thing he’s ever felt. He’s never been so turned on before, he could cry. He will cry. Bucky’s touching him all over, pulling and prodding at his clothes till he’s naked. Bucky gets between Steve’s legs and starts licking and sucking and—

“Oh fuck, please, please— fuck!”   

The sounds Steve’s body is making are sinful. He’s dripping wet and pushing his clit (fuck it all, he kind of likes calling it a clit right now) into Bucky’s mouth. Bucky’s sucking so hard it gets Steve to come one after the other. His tip is so sensitive and Bucky’s focused on flicking his tongue around and around. Steve’s throwing his head back onto the mattress, growling and screaming because the pleasure won’t stop. Bucky won’t stop.

He yanks at Bucky’s hair hard enough to get his lover to yelp. “Fuck me you sick bastard!”

Bucky smiles devilishly. He wastes no time in undoing his pants and pulling out that deliciously thick cock that Steve’s too excited to feel inside him. Fuck condoms. Steve can’t get pregnant on T anyway.

“Pants off,” Steve says, tugging at the denim. “Wanna finger your hole.”

Bucky purrs, nipping at Steve’s neck hard enough to draw blood. He sucks on the wound, moaning into it and shoves his pants off. They pull away from each other only for Bucky to discard his shirt.

Both naked, Bucky slips his cock between Steve’s lips, teasing his clit again. Steve grabs the mattress and pulls at the fabric. He’s mumbling syllables that have no reason and rocking his hips to get more.

“Bucky— tell me— tell me you’ll kill me.” It turns him on. It turns him on so much that he’s sure he’s going to come again just from this.

Bucky keeps thrusting his cock between Steve’s lips, getting his dick all slicked up with Steve’s wetness. “And I thought I was the monster.”

“Bucky!”

“I’m kiddin’ babe!” He kisses Steve’s mouth. “Gonna kill you slow, baby boy. Take my time with this pretty body.”

“Oh sweet fuckin’ Jesus!” Steve’s coming again and he knows Bucky can feel it in the way his enlarged clit twitches.

“You’re a real freak, Rogers,” Bucky purs. He slips his dick inside Steve, one elongated thrust and Steve’s left moaning and clutching Bucky’s shoulder blades. He bites into Bucky’s neck, growling.

“Oh shit, baby boy,” Bucky moans. “God, you’re so wet. This is— it’s—”

“Shut up and fuck me,” Steve groans. He rocks his hips roughly into Bucky, moaning and gasping each time Bucky’s tip slams into him. Why he held off on doing it like this for so long is downright beyond him right now. He’s a man. He has a pussy. He’s a man. Men can have pussies. It’s okay…

He clings onto Bucky, burying his face in broad shoulders and lets Bucky fuck into him, hard and unrelenting. Bucky’s growling and nibbling on Steve and the pain and pleasure work together to bring Steve into somewhere euphoric. He’s not thinking about what his body is or why it’s any different from Bucky’s. They’re men. It’s as simple as that. It’s okay.

He’s thinking of how each time Bucky thrusts in, his clit gets massaged and it sends pleasure up into Steve that’s so intense he can’t help but try to jerk away. He’s thinking of how many times Bucky’s going to get him to come or how many times Bucky comes. He’s mewling by the time he thinks about getting filled up with Bucky’s seed and watching it ooze back on his dick. God, Steve wants that.

He reaches behind Bucky, finding that little hole and starts circling his finger around it. He won’t push in without lube or spit on it. Bucky tenses and then he starts fucking Steve with a slower rhythm, one that rolls his ass up so Steve’s finger can work over his hole easier.

“You like that?” Steve asks. “Miss my cock inside that pretty hole?”

Bucky shivers. He nods, kissing Steve’s cheek over and over again.

“Get me to come three more times and I’ll fuck you all night long, baby.”

“That a promise?” Bucky asks.

“Tell me all the ways you’ll end my life and I think we’ve got a deal.”

Bucky blinks, at first there’s confusion, but he blinks again and he’s just smiling like the devil. “I’m gonna make you into a butterfly, Steve.”

Steve feels his clit twitch, working desperately to slip along Bucky’s shaft.

“Maybe even shove my prosthesis up this tight pussy of yours.”

“Please,” Steve gasps. “I don’t even have to die for that.”

Bucky laughs, nibbling on Steve’s lips. “You’re fucked up.”

“So’re you.”

They make love well into the early hours of the morning, Bucky detailing all the gruesome ways he’d split Steve open, bash his asshole in and pull out his organs. It should’ve been the most alarming moment of Steve’s life, except it wasn’t. He’s just as much a monster as Bucky.

He’d also kept good on his promise. He’d put on his strap-on and fucked Bucky till the sun came up.

 

Chapter Text

Now

Steve’s eyes are still closed when light brightens his eyelids, red and yellow like crisp autumn leaves. He groans, turning over. Instinctively, he moves to slip an arm around Bucky but doesn’t find anyone there. He opens one eye, and then the other, blinking. Leaning forward, he looks around their new bedroom. The walls are bare, the bed is a simple thing and their dresser isn’t anything to marvel at either. Steve would like to get a proper wardrobe one day, but that can wait. At least they’d gotten a new house. Too bad it cost him his college education…

Steve pads over the carpeted flooring, digging his toes in as he walks to feel the plush fabric. He looks out the long window in the hallway, seeing Bucky outside. He’s got his pants rolled up and he’s crouched over the pond. Steve watches, curious.

Bucky’s still for quite some time and then he’s grabbing something. Steve leans against the window. It’s a frog. Gulping, Steve moves away. He wants to make coffee and he doesn’t want to see what Bucky’ll do to the frog.

The kitchen isn’t beautiful, but it’s theirs. It could use some updating—quartz counters, for example. Maybe Steve just needs to hang up some of his art. He could do some fruit or cottage-like pieces to make it feel more at home. He’ll need to come up with a theme for the rooms. That’d be fun. Right now, the neutral taupe color only entices light into the room, but it’s still cold. It’s just a kitchen—not a kitchen in a home. 

Bucky walks in, trudging pond water along the tiled flooring. Steve just cocks a brow as he finishes starting up coffee, looking to Bucky’s bloodied hands.

“Breakfast?”

Bucky shakes his head.

Steve looks to the smear of blood in Bucky’s stubble. Resigned, he leans against the counter. Bucky’s already had his breakfast. Steve’s stomach knots just thinking about eating a raw frog… Frog legs have never been his thing anyway.

“You were amazing—last night.”

Steve’s face heats up. He stares at the coffee pot, watching the liquid brew. It’d been different—that’s for sure.

Bucky snakes behind Steve, coiling thick arms around him. He pulls him back, nuzzling his nose along Steve’s exposed throat. “God—I’m so in love with you.” He’s a little rougher than normal, pushing Steve into the counter, rocking his hips into Steve.

It’s not comfortable. Steve tenses, watching. All he can think about is the blood on Bucky’s hands and the fear of smelling his breath. Would dead frog have a scent?

“Wanna bend you over and fuck you so good, baby.” Bucky kisses the back of Steve’s neck. “Dig my fingers in and listen to you scream.”

“Bucky,” Steve finally says. The coffee pot grumbles to a halt. “Lemme at least have morning coffee.” You’re disgusting me right now…Steve scampers out of Bucky’s arms and grabs a mug. Gingerly, he comes back over, slowly preparing his coffee with cream and sugar. He likes creamer a lot, sometimes he accidentally pours too much in. He always drinks it all at least.

“Whaddya wanna do today?” Bucky asks.

“Wash your hands.” Steve doesn’t mean for it to sound so snappy, but it comes out clipped and forceful. He cringes when Bucky’s shoulders deflate. Steve bites his lip when he watches his lover go over to the sink and begin slowly washing away the blood. How can a cold-blooded murderer look so innocent?

It’s that void.

“Was I amazing because—because of my body or—”

“Doesn’t matter what body part you let me touch, I always love it.” Bucky’s response is so fast that it makes Steve’s throat run dry. “S’what you said—you really got me so—hot.”

Steve blinks, looking away. Oh, of course. He’d said things that should’ve frightened him then, but didn’t. They frightened him now. Did he really want that? For Bucky to—kill—him?

“I’ve got work to do.” Steve doesn’t feel like making breakfast. He meanders down the hall, distancing himself from Bucky. Maybe a little time with a paintbrush is necessary?

Maybe it’ll get Steve feeling like a normal person again.


Then

Steve doesn’t even flinch when he watches Bucky cut into a man’s skull. He’s using a meat cleaver—straight down the middle. The man screamed. There’s blood dribbling down the man’s head like a chocolate fountain, fast and warm. All Steve can think of is a chocolate fountain.

He wants chocolate.

Natasha laughs, gleeful and full of her manic excitement. She crowds over another man, her fingers twitching like malicious spiders. Steve fears her still. He’ll always fear her. She’s not just one person. There’s a whole other person inside that body, one that Natasha doesn’t let anyone see. He fears she exposes a little of that when she’s hunting. Steve would hate to see it all exposed. She’d bring ruin on everyone.

“Hey scrub,” Brock barks. He holds out a knife. “Wanna make the first cut?”

Bucky freezes.

Steve stares at the knife, glinting like a familiar friend—tempting. It’s a forbidden fruit Steve isn’t sure he wants to taste. He looks to the last man left alive, the fear etched into his face. The man’s aged so many years since they first arrived on this doorstep. At least they’re not a family. Steve made sure Bucky wouldn’t hurt families again. Though, Bucky told Steve it wouldn’t matter eventually. They’d have to switch up the victims to keep the cops off of them. It didn’t sit right with Steve. It would never sit right with Steve. Families aren’t bad people. These men though—they are rapists who got away with it. Steve doesn’t mind seeing them die. Anger manifests in Steve, snarling roots that take hold until he’s helpless but to obey. These men raped girls. Steve saw their victims. Saw their anguish…

Steve takes the knife. He’s shaking, staring down at the man, his mouth open. The man’s eyes are pleading—screaming at Steve to stop. Steve stands above the man, holding the knife.

“Draw it across his throat, baby,” Bucky says.

Steve looks over his shoulder, taking in the way Bucky’s pushed up his mask, how his eyes are almost black and his pink tongue is dancing across his lips. He’s so turned on, watching Steve hold a knife. Steve casually looks down between Bucky’s legs. He can see his cock hardening.

“What if I don’t wanna do that?”

Bucky blinks. “What do you wanna do, sweetheart?”

Steve ignores the whispered scrub comment from Brock. “I want ‘im to suffer.”

Bucky’s smile is reptilian.


Now

Thrifting isn’t so bad when Steve isn’t expecting to find anything great. He’s coming home with a coffee table, an old TV, a working DVD player and some really terrible movies. He’s pretty happy about that though. He’d even snagged some new shirts for Bucky to wear. Bucky always forgets he needs clothes. He’ll wear threadbare pieces of fabric and look at Steve curiously at the mere mention of new clothes. He doesn’t fight Steve at least, so Steve always keeps an eye out.

There’s another car in the driveway when Steve gets there. Panic sets in like a bullet to the heart. It freezes Steve’s veins. His muscles struggle to move but his brain isn’t sure it’s ready to know what’s happening. He pictures police dragging Bucky out, or worse—bringing him out in a body bag. He thinks of media and newspapers stringing Bucky up as a monster or some kind of wild animal.

They’re not wrong though.

Steve forces his way into the house. He hears a woman talking. Peggy. They’re in the living room. Bucky’s sitting on the floor. It’s just him and Peggy. There’s plenty of room on the couch but Steve understands why Bucky’s on the floor. People scare him.

Bucky’s curled in on himself. He’s rocking a bit. The look he shoots Steve is miserable—like he’s on the verge of tears. Steve wants to scoop him into his arms and kiss him for eternity. When Steve sees someone look up at him with needy eyes that yearn for protection, serial killer or not, Steve’s there.

“Hey,” Steve says.

“Steve!” Peggy stands up. “We were just talking about you.”

“You were?” He puts the TV down. “I got—I got a coffee table.” He points lackadaisically to the front of the house. Bucky doesn’t move. He’s too paralyzed with fear.

“Well, we were talking about your paintings. When do you want to start selling them?”

Steve blinks a few times. Paintings? Oh right! He does paintings! He forces lingering fears to seep out of his body. Bucky’s not being arrested. It’s just Peggy. “Uh—I figure I’ll start next week? I need to get a table and probably make a sign.”

“Oh I’m so excited!” Peggy claps her hands together, sitting back down on the sofa. “Steve, I’ve missed you so much!”

Bucky’s picking at his toes. He’s completely uninterested in what Peggy has to say. It—bothers Steve. Bucky’s lack of interest feels personal; like he’s disinterested in knowing Steve’s other side. Sure, he knows all about Steve’s dysphoria, his stance on politics and the darker side Steve wishes he could hide, but he doesn’t know anything about how Steve acts around friends. He doesn’t know the inside jokes Steve and Sam used to share. He’s never been to a birthday party for Steve’s friends—hell—he didn’t even throw Steve a birthday party because they were still getting to know each other then. To be fair, Steve didn’t tell him till a few days later…

Bucky knows a lot about Steve, but he doesn’t know the side Steve wishes he could show more of. That was one of the reasons why Steve needed this move.

He looks between the pair in the room, smiling. “I’ve missed you too, Peg.”

Peggy sniffs, wiping a tear. Steve’s at her side instantly.

“Hey!” Steve pulls her into his chest. She’s so soft. God, was he this soft once? It’s almost curious. “Shh, no tears.”

Bucky averts his gaze entirely.

“I just—I was thinking about her—Shar.”

Steve looks to Bucky, remembering that night.

“She loved your paintings. She loved you.”

Steve can’t bring himself to say anything. He doesn’t deserve to. He’s been making love to Sharon’s murderer. What kind of friend does that? Steve’s not a good person, no matter how hard he wants to be. He’s selfish. Bucky makes him selfish. He had something to prove that night and after he did it, he just moved on to the next challenge—loving a serial killer.

Bucky stands up. “You should go.”

“What?” Peggy sits back, wiping at her eyes. “Excuse me?”

“Leave.” Bucky’s gaze is dark, frightening. He’s always had an uncanny way of making himself look downright terrifying. Even Steve is nervous. Bucky seems to pull color from around him, darkening the area around him.

“How dare you?”

“Peggy.” Steve catches her wrist, squeezing it a little. She’s standing now, looking down at Steve with round, angered eyes. It kills Steve to see this happening. “He doesn’t do well with emotions.”

Peggy stares at Bucky, disapproval and malice on her face. Her lips are twitching like she wants to say something to him, but out of respect for Steve, she keeps it quiet. She looks to Steve again, nodding.

They’re almost out of the room when she says, “He’s not good enough for you, Steve. I don’t know what you see in him.”

Steve cringes, following Peggy out of the house. They say their goodbyes, Steve makes countless apologies about how Bucky isn’t good with people, his agoraphobia is acting up, all the usual excuses. Peggy doesn’t buy it one bit.

Once back inside, Steve’s blood pressure is already rising. He marches back into the living room, but Bucky isn’t there. He moves to the bedroom, then the bathroom, the studio, the empty den. Bucky isn’t anywhere.

Steve’s about ready to lock himself into his studio and paint the anger away when he hears a thud in the water outside. He goes back into the living room. Bucky’s face forward in the pond. “Bucky!” Steve runs outside, neglecting to close the sliding door. He sloshes into the pond, pulling Bucky back. “Bucky!”

Bucky starts laughing.

“Oh Jesus. What the fuck Bucky!”

“I was just gonna see if I could see anything underwater!” He laughs some more. “But you freaked out so much I just had to pretend.”

Steve shoves him into the pond, rolling his eyes. “That’s not funny, Bucky! I was terrified!”

Bucky swims back over to Steve. His eyes are above the water, nothing else. He looks like a monster. It’s all in the eyes. Those gray orbs that tell tales of torture and blood. He inches up so his mouth’s exposed, water rushing down the bridge of his nose. “You’d be upset if I died?”

Steve’s heart breaks. “Yes.”

Bucky stands up, looking like someone just kicked his puppy. “I’m sorry.”

Steve shakes his head. “No you’re not.”

“I am though.” Bucky walks forward, taking Steve’s hands. “I mean it this time. I’m sorry.”

Steve stares.

“Every day I expect you to leave me.” Bucky’s voice is trembling. He squeezes Steve’s fingers a bit harder. “Every day I think, this is it, this is the day you finally have enough. I know what I am. I know what I’ve done to you. I can never take that back. When she—when she started talkin’ about that—that girl,” he swallows, “I couldn’t let it happen. If she kept talkin’, I’d lose you.” Bucky looks up, lip quivering. “I’m not ready to lose you.”

Steve looks at Bucky, watches the tears stream from soulless eyes. Bucky is a psychopath. Steve’s not even sure how much of the emotion Bucky experiences is real or just simulated, but this, this is like watching a man learn God doesn’t exist for the first time. He hears the anguish, sees the remorse in the tiny lines around Bucky’s eyes. Steve hugs him. They’re sinking into the mud in the pond, the mosquitos that still haven’t died off yet from the Fall air are buzzing around them, but they’re hugging.

“I love you,” Steve whispers. “I’m not goin’ anywhere, baby.”

Bucky squeezes Steve, sniffling. “Promise?”

“Promise.”


Steve’s in the bathroom. He’s got his pants halfway down his ass and is starting to prep his T shot. The needle shines in the light from the window. He stares at it, almost mesmerized. Such a small little thing that has done so much for him. He’s always known. There was confusion and fear for awhile but he’s always known. Having a female body never changed who he was inside. This just helped it—almost like makeup. Made the face match what lay beneath.

“Steve?” Bucky knocks on the door.

“I’m takin’ my shot!”

Bucky opens the door anyway. He looks from the shot to Steve’s ass to the shot again.

“Seriously, Bucky!”

“Can I help?”

Steve leans against the sink. “Oh—uh—that may be okay.” He hands the shot over. “Ya gotta get over where I’ve got tracks—or the bruise thing. Whatever it is. I’m supposed to change sides but, I know this ain’t gonna hit a nerve or anythin’.”

Bucky looks at the needle, nodding. “S’like you’re a drug addict.”

Steve bristles, ready to punch instead of patiently wait for his lover to stab him in the ass with hormones.

“I’m kidding. Sorry.” Bucky moves closer, raising the shot a little. “Turn around?”

“Be easy,” Steve says. He grips the sink, feeling Bucky’s hand on his ass, he winces as the needle slips into the skin.

“You make the cutest sounds when you’re in pain.” Bucky starts to slowly remove the needle. “God, I wish this was bigger.”

“I don’t.” Steve pulls his pants up, feeling uneasy. They’re silent for a few beats, Bucky still staring at the needle. Steve ties his jockstring. He looks up. “How much bigger?”

Bucky shrugs. “I wouldn’t kill you. You know that.”

Steve scoffs.

“I’m serious!” Bucky furrows his brow. He licks the side of his lips. His eyes are alive right now, alive with the rage of the lives he’s cut short. He’s like the Grim Reaper. Maybe that’s why his eyes are grey. Like a ghost. “I know what we said last night. I also know that we don’t mean nothin’ by it. S’just play, right?”

Steve’s startled when he finds himself not answering.

“Steve?”

“I’m—I’m not—I—”

Bucky’s eyes widen. He steps back, shaking his head. “Don’t think like that.”

“I didn’t say anything!”

“Tell me now then.” His voice is a warning growl, like a caged hungry wolf. “You don’t want me to kill you, right?”

“Not right now.” The honesty of the answer feels like a sledgehammer to Steve’s gut. “Maybe not ever. I don’t know! I don’t know, Bucky!” The idea is interesting. Like some terrible romance that gets written in the stars for eternity. But the reality of it is horrifying. Steve’s not sure if he likes the idea because of the romance or because he’s as sick as Bucky… He’s not really sure if he wants to find out.

Bucky’s brow creases. He stares at the corner of the bathroom. Finally, he drops the shot and it tumbles to the floor. The sound is barely anything but it’s deafening in Steve’s ears.

“I’ve got a lot of things to work out in my head, Buck. Just—just let me figure them all out.”

“What’s all that?”

“Like—I don’t know. What we did last night. What I said. That raised a lot of—um—questions for me. Ones I have to find the answers to.”

Bucky nods.

“I’m not opposed to you cuttin’ me during sex. You know that. I don’t mind you biting or scratching. I just—I don’t know, Buck. I’m so fucked up.”

“You’re not fucked up.” It’s so fast it’s almost automatic. “I am—and I’m ruining you.”

Steve’s heart wrenches in his chest. “What? N-no, that’s not it.”

“Yes it is.” Bucky smiles sardonically. “I’m ruining you, Steve. We ain’t gonna be together forever. I know how my story ends.” He starts to walk from the bathroom.

Steve grabs his wrist. Their eyes lock. Steve wants to kiss him. He wants to kiss him so badly that his lips are burning. Bucky’s the cool spring water in the desert and Steve’s a dying man. He’s so close and yet it’s so hard to lean forward to catch those lips with his.

Bucky’s face blanks. Steve’s used to this Bucky. He’ll go outside, kill whatever animal he can find and then come back inside later when he’s ready to be around Steve again. But Steve can’t let this moment go. He has to know the answer.

“How does your story end?”

Bucky blinks, once, twice. He stares at Steve, his face completely blank. Those ghostly gray eyes just watch Steve, or maybe he’s even looking right through. He’s silent for so long that Steve’s fingers start to tingle around Bucky’s wrist. “I lose everything.”

Bucky gently removes Steve’s hand, making his way down the hall. Steve hears the sliding door. He sinks back into the bathroom, gasping. He didn’t expect such a simple answer to flip his world upside down. Lose everything…

Everything.

Bucky’s just waiting for his world to end…


Then

Steve stares. He wants to slash this man up. He wants to prove to the justice system that if they don’t do their job, that someone will do it for them. This man is a rapist. A rapist. But Bucky’s a murderer. What makes Bucky any better? The sad truth is that, nothing makes Bucky better. Brock’s a murderer and a rapist, Steve assumes Jack is too. Natasha is just downright horrifying. They’re all wolves, hungry and smiling while Steve holds a knife above a man who is tied to a damn chair.

Steve drops the knife.

“You’ve gotta be kiddin’ me!” Brock flails his arms. “You fuckin’ serious, man? C’mon scrub!”

“I won’t do it.” Steve backs away. He watches the way the rapist’s shoulders relax. “But that doesn’t mean I don’t wanna see you suffer.” Steve looks at Bucky. “My notebook, where is it?”

Jack’s handing it to Steve before Bucky has a chance to move.

Steve flips to a certain page, a particularly gruesome one. Heavy lines are etched down the middle of limbs, the face and the torso. Penciled blood pools around them and lifeless eyes that Steve didn’t even bother to draw in stare back at him. “Do this.” He hands it back to Jack.

Jack laughs. “Does he have eyeballs?”

Steve looks to the rapist again, shaking his head. “No.”

“How you want us to remove them?” Natasha asks. She’s swaying from side to side in excitement.

“I don’t care. Just make ‘im suffer.”

Steve walks away, listening to the sounds of feet and muffled screaming. He sits in the hallway when his legs give out. Bucky isn’t better than that rapist. Bucky’s worse. That man raped one girl during a party. Bucky kills people every week.

Steve puts his hands over his ears, choking on a sob.

Bucky’s the monster that Steve lets exist because he’s in love with him. He’s fallen in love with a monster and he can’t find a way to make any of this better.

So Steve becomes one too. And he hates himself for it.


Now

Steve’s spent the past few days in his studio. Bucky hasn’t spoken to him since their conversation in the bathroom. They’ve slept in the same bed, they’ve eaten the same food, but Bucky hasn’t said a word. He walks the halls like a ghost, aimless. Steve wants to give him direction, to be the reason he remains tethered to the world, but Steve can’t find the words. They bubble up in his throat, snuffed out like ants on a child’s playground when the moment comes.

Steve’s almost finished with everything he needs to set up shop in front of Angie’s diner. Paintings of the New England coast, cottages, animals, nondescript families walking along gardens. He cringes, realizing the heteronormativity of it all. The bodies are white, there’s a man and a woman—he wants to burn it all.

He doesn’t fit into his paintings. He’s with a man who loves him, but would rather hold a blade than a baby. He’s with a man who knows him, but for Steve to make love to him, he has to wear a strap-on. He isn’t anything like the dainty woman with the puffy skirt he’d painted. He’s not even a woman, even if that’s what it says on his birth certificate. He’s never been a woman. Just trapped.

Steve finds anger in the most inopportune moments. He’s shaking, staring at the painting. He’d hunched over it like a dutiful husband to a new wife and now he wants nothing more than to see it ruined. He grabs it forcefully, bringing it into his knee. It snaps. He throws it across the room, roaring with all his anger. He can’t have that life. That won’t ever be his life. Jealousy, anger and bitter resentment burn his chest.

He wants to walk down the coast with a baby in his arms and Bucky, his smiling husband on the other side. He wants people to stop and croon and talk about when they had children. He wants a family—he wants a life.

It hits him so hard that tears stream from his eyes and he starts retching. He dives over the garbage can, spewing.

“Steve!” The door slams open. Bucky’s hands are hovering, but he’s not touching. He’s never understood how to support someone in need. He can only give pain.

Steve sobs, sitting back and covering his face with his hands. How did he just realize that he wanted that life? Not to be a little woman, but to be a man with the ability to give life—or adopt life—Steve doesn’t even care. That’s the horror if it all. He’s read plenty of articles about transmen giving birth, some feel liberated, others depressed, it’s all individual because the trans experience is individual. No two are the same because no two people are the same. His experience isn’t the transman in California’s experience. That doesn’t make one’s struggle with it harder or easier, it just makes it unique. They are people. People are unique.

All it took was a picture he’d painted for him to realize how badly he wanted it.

“Steve?”

Steve ignores Bucky. He wipes miserably at his runny nose. His eyes are blurry from the tears. He wishes he could fall into Bucky’s arms, to mumble his woes into that neck and feel consoling hands in his hair. That’s not Bucky Barnes. Bucky Barnes is distant, cold, and erratic. He’ll always be unstable. That’s the man Steve fell in love with. Steve has two options, accept that or leave.

I lose everything.

“I love you,” Steve says. He says it because the thought of leaving Bucky makes him want to die. He reaches out, and Bucky doesn’t hesitate to pull Steve into a hug. Steve sobs, clutching the front of Bucky’s shirt. “I love you, I love you, I love you.”

Bucky doesn’t say a word. He doesn’t stroke his fingers through Steve’s hair, he doesn’t even feel warm. He’s rigid and Steve can hear how loud his heart is beating.

“I just needed to say that.” Steve pulls back, slipping along the wall. Bucky nods. “You—you still love me?”

Round eyes measure Steve, contemplate the various angles he could probably kill Steve in such a vulnerable state. He blinks, soft and child-like. “Yes.”

It does nothing to make Steve happier. “How far would you go to make me happy?”

“Why don’t you ask what you want?”

Steve snorts, hitting his head against the wall. “I can’t. If I hear myself say it then it’ll be real.”

Bucky stands up. He offers a hand that Steve doesn’t take. After a few long minutes, Bucky finally walks away.

Steve starts crying again. A lover shouldn’t walk away like that. It only shows Steve how fragile and fleeting this relationship is. No child should ever come into this. He just has to push the thoughts from his head. He’d never make a good dad anyway. He’s the kind of man who begs his lover to kill him when getting fucked… That monster doesn’t deserve anything but the bite of a knife lodged in the throat.


Angie’s nice enough to bring a pop up canopy when it starts raining. Steve had to hurry inside. He’d lost two paintings in the rain. He sits at the bar along the window, staring. He hasn’t sold a single piece yet and then the rain happened.

“Don’t worry, Steve,” she says, patting his back. “I’m sure it’ll pick up, ya know? People’s just gotta know you’s around!” She’s so happy. She’s always so happy. It’s a quality Steve’s admired about Angie for a long time. “Can I getcha some coffee?”

Steve laughs at the way she says coffee. Qwaffee. “Sure.”

While Angie buzzes away, checking on some other customers along the way, Steve sees black legs, a black leather jacket and vivid red hair. He tenses, grabbing his fork. He doesn’t even have any food but he’s still gripping the utensil as if his life depends on it.

Natasha comes into the diner. Her uninterested eyes scan the place. It’s not the most interesting place to look at. It’s dated, with black and white tiled flooring. The booths are a little too small for America’s growing obesity problem. It’s charming though. Steve likes the old feel about it.

“Heard you were here.” She slides onto the stool next to his.

“You talk to Bucky?” Steve bites his lip. He’s hopeful at the idea of them discussing him. It’s normal. People confer in close friends when there’s an issue. Steve still hasn’t talked to Sam yet. He’s not sure if he can. Steve’s trying to get back into the swing of seeing people. Sam—bless him—has never taken offense to Steve’s sudden disappearance. Steve wonders if he should tell Sam the truth. Sometimes he wishes he had at least one person outside of the Silent Soldiers to talk to about everything. They don’t get it, the struggle that Steve endures. He’s pushing a boulder up a hill and the second he thinks he’s almost there, something changes. The topography shifts and Steve’s crumbling down again, boulder atop his body. Over and over.

“He said you’re gonna have a booth outside.” Natasha looks to the popup canopy outside. “You need help setting it all back up?”

Steve blinks, surprised. “You’d help me?”

She shrugs. “Don’t act all surprised.”

Angie comes back with the coffee. She smiles wide, looking at Natasha with eyes that convey familiarity. “Nattie!”

“Angie.” Natasha offers a lazy salute. “Heard you’re gonna help this sorry ass out.” She claps a hand on Steve’s shoulder. Steve just bristles.

“Sure am! I’ve got him all set up out there!” Angie licks her lips, her smile fading. “Sorry the first day’s been so rotten though, Steve.”

Steve just waves it off. “I got good coffee at least.”

“You should make sure people know you do commissions too,” Natasha says. “I think that’s pretty important. Maybe even caricatures? People walking around Mystic who want something to remember it by?”

“Oh!” Angie bounces on her heels. “That’s a great idea, Nattie!”

Natasha smiles proudly. She’s so functional. It’s astounding to Steve. Bucky would never be this calm around Angie. He’d never be this calm around anyone, except his small group. And the name—Nattie. They know each other. It surprises Steve. He never expected this, but Natasha lives in the little town. It’d make sense for her to come to the diner for food. She’s got all the coffee she needs—living above a coffee shop and all.

“I’m gonna help him get all set back up.” Natasha stands.

“Want me to bring you a coffee too?” Angie blinks her round, big eyes. Steve can’t help but smile at that thick New York accent again.

“Sure, Angie.”

Steve gathers up his paintings with Natasha’s help. They go back outside and begin setting up under the canopy. The rain’s lighter than before, but still a steady downfall. He can hear the crashing waves along the docks.

“Did Bucky talk to you about anything else?” Steve asks, putting up some paintings of cottages along coastlines. He admires one, it’s a sunset piece. The colors blended so nicely. He could’ve done a bit better on the detailing on the house but—like any artist, he’s always hard on himself.

“Just that you were down here.” Natasha looks at him like she knows what he’s getting at. She’s got a clear view into Steve’s mind. He can feel her fingers inside his brain. He shivers. “But I can read between the lines.”

“Oh yeah?”

“You’re having a fight.”

“No we’re not—”

“Yes you are.” Natasha smirks. She puts another painting into its holder. “Nice piece.”

“Thanks.” Steve steps closer. “What do you mean we’re having a fight?”

“Steve, don’t play dumb. You want something and he knows it. He can’t give whatever it is to you and you’re stuck. You know what you signed up for with him.” She looks at him gravely, pale skin soaking up the gray light around them. Her eyes swallow the world in, analyzing it and spitting it back out once she knows all the secrets there is to know.

“I’m not askin’ for anything.” He scratches an elbow, feeling vulnerable.

Angie comes out with a to-go cup for Natasha. She hands it off with a smile. “I’ll see ya later’s a-kay?”

“Absolutely,” Natasha says, tipping the coffee in the air as a thank you. Angie’s back inside before Natasha takes the first swig.

“Steve, he knew what you were doing with the house. Getting him to move? C’mon. We all know what you’re doing.”

Steve bites his lip, staring at his boots. The rain swirls around them, lazy as it filters into the sewers along the streets.

“He’s not a normal guy, Steve. He’ll never be a normal guy.”

Steve sits down at one of the camping chairs (again supplied by Angie). He sighs heavily. There’s a weight on his chest that he can’t shake no matter how many times he sucks in air.

“Whatever it is you want,” Natasha continues, “You’ve gotta pick between him and that. Because it’s not happening. I saw the house you really wanted. Do you honestly think Bucky could take that? Neighbors looking in? The white fence?” Her tone is irritated. She spews her truth like preachers spew the gospel—it’s easy for her, but the words make Steve uncomfortable.

“I just wanted us to—I just wanted us to have a place that was ours.”

Natasha lifted a brow.

“That shack.” Steve closes his eyes before the tears can well up. “I looked at that bed every night and I saw myself chained to it. I would walk into the bathroom and I’d remember Bucky waiting outside the door as I peed. It wasn’t mine. I wasn’t there because I wanted to be. I was there before he forced me.”

“He didn’t—”

“Are you kidding me, Nat?” Steve raises his voice, his brows shooting up his forehead. “He kidnapped me! I was in that shack for months before he finally gave me the option to go!”

“But you didn’t.”

Steve feels tears, they fall, traitorous down his face. “I fell in love. But that’s not how it started out. I hated him. I hated all of you.”

Natasha takes a sip of her coffee. “Have you talked to him about this? About the resentment you feel?”

Steve throws his hands into the air. “As if I could. He’s not exactly the discuss-your-feelings-type.”

“But he loves you.”

“Well—that’s just not good enough.”

Natasha makes a small sound, nodding. “I told you you were a threat.”

“What?”

“When he first started bringing you around to hunts. Got you that pretty mask that you never wear anymore. I told you that you were a threat. This is it. This is the moment where you’re our biggest threat.”

Steve looks at his hands. “I don’t understand what you mean.”

Natasha gets on her knees, looking up at Steve. She firmly grabs his chin. “You leave him, and you destroy him. You stay, and he destroys you. The decision you make will affect us all.” She lets go. Steve rubs at his jaw; it’s aching from how steady she held him. Standing up, she takes one more swig of her coffee and then tosses it into the trash. “You’ve got a big decision to make, Steve.”

Steve shakes his head. This isn’t what he wanted. There’s not supposed to be some decision about whether he stays or goes. It’s about how to compromise and meet each other in the middle. He wants to make this work! They just bought a house!

“Remember though,” she says. Her back’s turned. “If he’s not there to protect you, what’s stopping me from finally murdering you?”

Steve doesn’t answer. His mouth would hit the floor if it was physically possible. He watches her leave, powerful thighs carrying her weight—the weight of a killer. She moves like a panther. Everything is calculated and thought out. Casually, she looks at him over her shoulder. They hold each other’s gaze before finally, she turns the corner.

A lamb in a den of wolves—that’s all Steve is.


When he comes home that night, Bucky’s in his studio. Anger swells first. That’s a private room where Steve keeps a lot of his private things—but Bucky can’t ask the questions he needs to, so he finds other ways of seeking out answers. Looking over Steve’s sketchbooks, that’s one of the easiest ways to figure Steve out.

Steve stands in the doorway. He watches Bucky thumb through, lingering on occasion. He clears his throat and watches the way Bucky’s shoulders rise and he sucks back a sharp breath.

“See anything ya like?” Steve asks.

“Oh—s-sorry.”

No he’s not. Steve walks in, turning on the overhead light. The room saturates with yellow from above. Bucky closes the sketchbook.

“I’ve laid low,” Bucky says. “We haven’t gone out in so long.”

Steve sits at his desk, listening with a pinched brow.

“I needed t’see your drawings. See how beautiful I could make someone look.”

Steve looks at his hands. They don’t look like an artist’s hands—they’re liar’s hands. Hands crafted by the devil to do his bidding. Steve used to believe in God too. Maybe he still does. He’s not really sure anymore. He’s seen too much, done too much.

Bucky flips to a page. “I sat here, wonderin’ what you’d look like—strung up like this. You’d be so pretty, Steve. I’d make sure your eyes were open like that, that hooded gaze.”

Steve feels sick.

“Then I thought—no—no, I can’t do that to him. It’s so final. I’d never hold him again, or—or kiss ‘im. Never hear your laugh,” Bucky’s eyes well with tears, “I’d never hear you talk about some new idea or ask me what I want for dinner. It’s so final.” He drops his face into his hands, crying openly. Steve feels his heart twist. It yanks violently into his stomach, pulling so hard for him to stand up.

He gives in, moving to cross the room. Bucky grabs him around the middle and sobs loudly. Steve strokes his fingers through Bucky’s hair. He doesn’t know what to say. A broken man is working out the finalities of mortality, and Steve fears his words would break it apart.

“I can’t do that. I can’t m-make you go away.” Bucky squeezes Steve harder. He presses his face into Steve’s stomach. “I love you so much. I love you so much it makes me so scared. I’m not good enough. I’m not right. But I can’t let you go. I—I need you.”

Steve keeps stroking Bucky’s hair. He wonders if Natasha lied earlier. Had she really talked to Bucky more? She seemed so sure she knew what was going on. Bucky’s behavior would prove Steve’s theory correct.

“Do you think I’m leaving you?” Steve asks.

Bucky looks up, sniffing. He pulls back miserably, wiping tears away. It’s futile though, new tears stream down soon after. “I thought that’s why we weren’t talkin’.”

Steve grabs Bucky’s hand. “Bucky, no. I’m not leaving you.”

Bucky’s eyes round. “You’re not?”

“You’re not perfect. You terrify me sometimes. You say things that make me uncomfortable. But you get me in ways no one else does. You’re encouraging and when you do things for me—I know how much you love me because I know how hard you struggle. This whole house?

“This whole life we’re trying to have? You’re doin’ it for me. So no, Buck. I ain’t leaving you.”

Bucky cries out. He crashes into Steve, kissing him over and over. They’re on the floor, sprawled out between paint, canvases and brushes. Steve’s legs are around Bucky and it’s the best feeling, to be like this. Tears get into Steve’s mouth. He savors them, each a little reminder that Bucky is human. Bucky does feel.

“Steve,” Bucky whines. “God, I was so scared.”

Steve wraps his arms around Bucky. He feels Bucky’s erection pressed against his thigh. Laughing, he kisses the top of Bucky’s head. “Don’t be, sweetheart. I’m here.”

Bucky kisses Steve’s throat. He laps his tongue out, tracing the curve of Steve’s throat. “I wanna—can we—”

“Yeah baby, we can.”

“Like this?” Bucky rocks his hips forward. “It felt so good last time.”

Steve cups Bucky’s face, wiping a tear away. Bucky’s eyes shine like nebulas the world has never seen. There’s a whole universe in those eyes. “Make love to me, baby. I wantcha to.”

Bucky sobs again, dropping his face against Steve’s chest. He kisses him, pushing Steve’s shirt up. “I don’t want anything to ruin us.”

Steve gasps when Bucky starts sucking at a nipple. He holds Bucky’s head to him, rocking his hips up. “Nothing’s ever gonna ruin us.”

They fall asleep there, naked and curled up in each other’s arms. Orgasms spent, sweat long since evaporated and Bucky’s prosthesis long-since discarded. Steve knows the warmth of Bucky’s body pressed against his—that’s all he needs.


Then

“You comin’ with us, Steve?” Natasha asks as she carries her weapons over to the truck. “You had fun last time, right?”

Steve watches them pile up their supplies in the truck. Bucky’s buzzing all over, that twitchy smile on his face that he gets when he’s excited.

“I dunno. Kinda think I should stay and do some dishes.”

“Are you shitting me, scrub?” Brock’s voice booms. “Get in the damn truck.”

Steve clenches his teeth. Natasha shrugs, moving away. Brock stares Steve down, pointing at the truck. “I said I think I need to stay here.”

“And do what? Play housewife? Jesus, fuck! You’re such a pussy!”

Steve bites his tongue to keep from losing his shit on Brock. He steps back, leaning against the shack.

“Get in the damn truck!”

Steve looks to Bucky, eyes pleading. Bucky’s no longer smiling. He’s watching with a blank face. Jack’s leaning on the truck, smoking. They look like they’re getting ready to go camp, not murder a bunch of kids. Kids. These people aren’t even out of college yet. Like Steve…

“I don’t wanna go, Brock,” Steve grits out.

Brock shoves Steve against the house. His mangled face reminds Steve of Freddy Krueger and that chills him to the bone. He’s scared of Brock Rumlow. Always will be. “You’re good for nothin’ you know? Just got a tight lil hole that Barnes likes ta’fuck!” He spits in Steve’s face and then stomps away.

Steve wipes the saliva off his face, glaring at Bucky. “You enjoy your show?” He runs into the house. He stayed because he thought he could trust Bucky. Would he let Brock murder him too? He’s almost to their bedroom when Bucky finally catches up. He grabs Steve’s wrist, pulling him around.

“Hey,” Bucky says, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry.” Bucky pulls Steve into a hug. He cups Steve’s head and for a moment, Steve wants to believe this is real—a dutiful apologetic boyfriend. “I was scared, okay? I was frozen.”

Steve doesn’t believe him. He was entertained.

“You know I care about ya.”

Steve closes his eyes, trying to filter the lie inside his mind. He wants to catch it, pull it close and hold it at night. Bucky may care, but it’s not real. Not like it should be. Steve’s the one who went and found himself in love with a serial killer. That’s got to be amusing to Bucky.

“If he ever wanted to fuck me,” Steve says evenly, “would you let him?”

Bucky lips part slowly. He stares, startled. There’s a look of disgust in his features, paired with strange realization. “I don’t know. If you wanted it? He could?”

Steve huffs. “I don’t want it Bucky. I would never want that.” He pulls away, going into their bedroom and slamming the door. A novelty. That’s all Steve is…


Now

Steve’s almost finished with the cupcakes. He’s got them all out on the island. Multicolored paper clings to their plump forms. He’s working on the icing, licking his lips back and forth in concentration. The cupcakes are for Angie. He wants to give her a proper thank you. Steve’s been up at the diner now for a few weeks. He’s even starting to really take off. Tourists like him. He doesn’t make too much money, but he has enough to pay the electric bill, so that’s exciting.

Steve nods to himself, pleased with the brightly colored cupcakes. In another life, he would’ve made a good baker.

Bucky comes into the house. Steve looks to the clock—it’s almost 4AM. He started making the cupcakes around 3 when he couldn’t sleep.

“Smells good,” Bucky says. He moves over to the sink and starts scrubbing blood off his hands.

“Have a good time?” Steve asks.

“You should’a come, Steve,” Bucky splashes some of the water over the sink’s lip, “God, they were so beautiful.”

“So the cops’re off your tail then? You don’t gotta worry?” Steve starts piling the cupcakes into the carrier.

“FBI’s been gone for awhile now. Think we moved to Delaware.” He snakes behind Steve, kissing his throat. “Mmm, you smell like sugar.”

Steve laughs, leaning back for a kiss. “Want one?”

“Rather just eat you.”

It doesn’t really settle well in Steve’s stomach—that remark. Bucky’s been known to bring home dead bodies to eat before. He knows it’s supposed to be a compliment though, so he smiles all the same. “Oh yeah?”

“Mmhmmm,” Bucky purrs, kissing down Steve’s neck. “Wanna get you naked, kiss all over that pretty body and suck on that adorable lil cock you got.”

“Oh, Bucky!” Steve gasps, tossing his head back. He feels his knees shake and he falls into Bucky’s large chest. The prosthesis comes around him, but he’s got his flesh hand up on Steve’s jaw.

“Want that, Stevie? Want my mouth around you, suckin’ on that pretty lil thing between your legs.”

“Oh shit.” Steve grabs the island. “Eat a damn cupcake first.”

Bucky laughs, grabbing a cupcake. He takes a big bite of it, licking the icing off his lips. “Tastes like you.”

“You’re such a liar.” Steve giggles all the same, blushing.

Bucky swings Steve over his good shoulder, carrying him into their bedroom. They fall into each other, both smiling and laughing. Steve works clumsily out of his clothes. Bucky pushes his head between Steve’s thighs, kissing and nibbling them.

“You’re so flawless, you know?” Bucky says..

Steve lays back, watching the way Bucky’s gaze drinks in the moonlight. So alive… So human after a kill. It’s selfishly the only reason Steve likes when Bucky goes out hunting.

Bucky takes a finger, trailing it up from Steve’s hole to his lips. He works his fingers over Steve’s swelling cock, smiling when he sees it twitch. “I love this about you.”

Steve doesn’t want to look down. He knows what’s there. He doesn’t mind it really—sometimes. Not when it’s Bucky between his legs. “That I’m trans?”

“That you’re you,” Bucky responds before covering Steve’s swollen cock with his mouth. He sucks hard, tickling his tongue at the tip.

Steve arches forward, crying out. It’s too sensitive—too much all at once. He gasps when he feels Bucky’s fingers work inside his hole, swirling around like they’ve done it all the years of their lives.

He comes, listening to the sounds of Bucky’s sucking and the thrust of his fingers. It rocks through him, curling his toes and almost throwing his calf into a Charlie horse. He always comes so hard when Bucky forces it out of him.

Bucky doesn’t stop though, he pulls his shirt off and then removes his jeans. “Fuck me.”

“Yeah?” Steve’s still panting. The jelly-like feeling he gets after he comes is setting in, making his limbs feel non-existent. “Get my strap-on then.”

Bucky kisses him, quick and eager and then he’s up. He pulls out the purple strap-on, reaching for the lube too. “Just fuck me.”

“Gotta work you open first,” Steve says. “I don’t wanna hurt you.”

“But I want you to hurt me,” Bucky whispers.

Steve stares, suddenly entirely out of his element. He looks at the strap-on, and then to Bucky again. “I—Bucky—I—”

Bucky’s face saddens. He looks away, dropping the strap-on. “I made you uncomfortable.”

“No, baby no! That’s not it.”

“Then you don’t wanna fuck me?”

“That’s not it either!” Steve’s up on his knees, hands out like he’s trying to placate some kind of wild animal. Bucky’s not a wild animal, he’s a confused and dejected—wretched soul. “I don’t like the idea of hurting you. It didn’t make me uncomfortable, it just—made me sad.”

“Why? I hurt people all the time.”

“I’m not like that, Bucky.” Steve moves to straddle Bucky. He wraps his arms around broad shoulders, bringing their foreheads together. “I don’t wanna hurt you. I just wanna make you feel good. You deserve that.”

“I do?”

“Yeah.” Steve smiles. “You do. We’re a really fucked up team, you n’ me. But we belong to each other. You deserve the best love, the best feelings, you deserve to feel good, baby..”

A tear streams from Bucky’s eye. He catches it, surprised at himself. Eyes round, lips parted, he stares at it like he was incapable of crying. “I don’t deserve you.”

Steve kisses him. “Yes you do,” he kisses him again, “you deserve me just fine.” He kisses him once more. “Now do you want me to fuck you or what?”

Bucky smiles, nodding. “Go easy?”

Steve slinks off Bucky’s body, watching the other man turn over and spread his legs. “I’d never hurt you.”

He works Bucky open gently, using more lube than probably necessary. He kisses Bucky’s ass, licks at his flickering hole. He gives everything he can to Bucky with the night’s sky as their witness. He loves eating Bucky out. It’s not exactly tasty, considering Bucky doesn’t do most standard cleansing practices, but it’s Bucky. Steve loves hearing him whine. He loves pushing his tongue inside and hearing the thwick of sheets being tugged.

He pulls away, ready to slip on his strap-on and make love to Bucky properly. Before he does, he flips Bucky over, sidling up between eager, trembling thighs. “You love me?”

Bucky nods.

Steve pushes in slowly, kissing Bucky as he moves forward. Bucky gasps into the kiss. He clutches Steve’s neck with his good hand. Steve doesn’t know the feeling of being clamped down on, or if Bucky’s got a tight ass. He doesn’t know how warm Bucky would be wrapped around his cock—but he knows this—he makes Bucky’s face slack into the most serene expression. He gets Bucky’s body so relaxed that his cock can’t even hold an erection.

And he makes Bucky come—oh he makes Bucky come.


It’s Steve’s worst nightmare. Bucky’s not home. Brock Rumlow and Jack Rollins are walking up the long driveway. The leaves have fallen, scattering around in their dusty colors. Bucky made a promise that he’d rake them up, but he hasn’t gotten around to it yet. Steve wonders if he ever will.

Steve stands there, staring at the door. He’s not sure what to do. He can hear muffled voices now on the other side, followed by a steady knock. “Shit.” Steve opens the door, hesitant. He peeks his head out, looking between the two men.

“Stevie!” Brock cheers, raising his hands in the air. “Was just talkin’ about’cha!” He pushes himself inside, and Jack follows, like a menacing shadow.

“Don’t call me that,” Steve says.

“What? Stevie?” Brock snorts. “Get over yourself. I’ll call ya what I want, whenever I want.”

Jack nudges Brock, shaking his head.

Brock rolls his eyes. “Whatever. Where’s Buckster?”

“He’s up at the shack,” Steve says. “Said he had to take care of some bodies.”

“Oh yeah!” Brock walks further into the house. He doesn’t take his shoes off. Steve rolls his eyes. So much for clean carpet. “So what’s he got his little pussy-wife up to these days?”

“Brock,” Jack says curtly.

“What? They’re practically married. New house, new little job down at the diner I hear? Ya gonna start poppin’ out babies?”

Steve’s face darkens, his brow heavily creased between his eyes. Brock doesn’t know the landmine he just stepped on. For Steve’s safety, he can never know. Brock loves raping women. He wouldn’t see Steve as a man anymore—just an oddity.

Brock laughs, sitting down in the living room. He props his feet up on the coffee table. “Ya should getta dog.”

That’s the first sensible thing out of Brock Rumlow’s mouth. Steve has to pinch himself to make sure he’s not dreaming it.

“That’s not a bad idea,” Steve says, joining the other two. “Can I get you two anything? Food or something?”

Jack shakes his head.

Brock says, “A beer, barmaid.”

Steve leaves the room, rigid with his nails digging into his palms. He distantly hears Jack whisper why do you always say shit like that and it brings a smile to his face. The person who has the most reason to hate Steve actually doesn’t seem to hate him at all. He doesn’t mind Jack. Sometimes Steve’s convinced that Jack only does what he does because he’s in love with Brock.

Steve grabs a beer, staring at a picture on the fridge. It’s just a selfie of him and Bucky on their first day moving in. Simple. Bucky’s not smiling, but Steve is. Maybe Jack is what Steve would become if he wasn’t so scared of killing people. Not only that, Steve doesn’t want to kill people. He’ll sketch up designs, he’ll let Bucky go without a fuss, but he’s had his fill of terrors. He never wants to see those nights again.

“You should paint me,” Brock says instead of thanking Steve for the drink. “I’ll even pay ya.”

“Oh yeah?” Steve asks, crossing his arms.

“Yeah, with a big fat dick up yer ass.” Brock howls with laughter. Jack and Steve don’t find it funny.

“Is he drunk already?” Steve asks.

Jack shakes his head no. He’s not really one for talking much. Brock does enough talking for the both of them.

“Drunk on life, scrub, drunk on life.” Brock leans back, spreading out. “Fucked a pretty little bitch last night and chopped her head off as she was coming. Shit, that pussy got tight.”

Steve looks at Jack, wondering if the words spewing from Brock’s mouth hurt him at all. Maybe they don’t. They don’t exactly have a normal relationship either.

“Do you think it’s funny?” Steve asks. He’s never really had a good filter on his mouth, especially when he gets angry. “Sitting here and talking about someone like that? She was a person before you got to her.” He can feel his ears go red.

Brock rolls his eyes. “She was a dumb bitch.”

“Why? Because she was a woman?”

Jack snorts. Steve wonders if it’s because Jack knows something he doesn’t. The grenade goes off in Brock’s eyes, and then Steve understands.

Brock is up, pushing Steve down into the carpet. He’s got his legs around Steve’s hips, hand wrapped around his throat. “You’re a little bitch too ya know. Fuckin’ everything good we got up! You’re ruining everything! And yeah, she was a dumb bitch ‘cause she was a woman too dumb to realize sleepin’ with me wasn’t smart.”

“She didn’t—know you,” Steve grits out. He gasps when Brock closes his hand around his throat more.

“Yeah well, you know me just fine, and you’re still actin’ stupid.”

“Brock!”

Brock recoils, slinking behind the sofa. He straightens out his shirt and smooths back his hair, snorting.

Bucky’s glaring, looking more like the killer he truly is. His eyes bore holes into Brock, brow furrowed and his hand is twitching. “Get out of my house.”

“Really? You’re gonna let him ruin our whole thing, ain’tcha?”

“I said get out.” Bucky’s voice is ice, pelting Steve until he’s left shivering on the floor. “Last chance.”

Brock huffs, jerking his head for Jack to follow. “You’re a dumb bitch too, Buck. The day you brought that faggot home.”

“You shove your dick in Jack’s ass. What’s that make you?” Bucky tilts his head.

Brock glares. “I still shove it in pussy too. What about you?”

Steve’s eyes go wide. Fear snares him like malicious tendrils, coiling up his body to wrap around his throat. He can’t speak. He’s paralyzed, watching. Steve has a vagina. He can try to ignore it, call it different names or forget it’s really there sometimes, but he has one.

Bucky shrugs. “Guess I’m a faggot too.”

Steve breathes again.

“Especially because Steve’s the one shovin’ his dick up my ass.”

Steve’s gaze snaps to Bucky, a small smile curving his lips. Bucky’s pleased smitten with himself. He jerks his head toward the front of the house. “Now get out of my house, Brock.”

Brock follows Jack, who gingerly takes his hand. There’s a look of hurt that shadows over Brock’s features.

Bucky watches, still glaring. Once they’re gone he relaxes. “I didn’t mean to keep you waiting.”

“S’okay,” Steve says. He walks over to Bucky, pulling him into a hug. “Thank you. There was a time that I didn’t—I didn’t trust you to pick me over him once.” He holds Bucky close, cupping the back of his head. “I know better now.”

“I’d pick you over a million lives, a million easy lives where I could do anything. I’d pick you.”

Steve smiles, bringing their foreheads together. “Yeah?”

Bucky nods, kissing Steve’s nose. “I know I’m—not easy to love. But, I try. I mess up. I say stupid things. I do stupid things. But I do try to be what you need.”

Steve cups Bucky’s face. “This is the most romantic you’ve ever been.”

Bucky rolls his eyes. “Yeah well, seeing Brock on top of you brought out some super jealousy.”

“Oh?” Steve asks, pulling Bucky away from the living room and down the hall. “Seeing another man with his thighs around me got you hot under the collar?”

Bucky growls, pushing Steve against the wall. He bites Steve’s neck, rolling his hips. “You’re mine, baby boy. All mine.”

Steve pulls Bucky’s face to his, kissing him roughly. He bites down on Bucky’s lip, tugging. Bucky groans, snapping his hips forward. Steve lets go, leaning his head back.

“I want your name carved into my body,” Steve says, heady and aroused. “Want you to lick blood off me, fuck me, come in me. I need to be entirely yours.”

Bucky pulls out a knife, trailing it down Steve’s neck. “Yeah?”

Steve gasps, watching the knife. “Please, Buck. Please.”

Bucky slices open Steve’s shirt. His eyes are lustful, drinking Steve in. Everywhere he looks, Steve’s skin burns. His teeth ache, the tips of his fingers, his damn nipples are aching. He needs Bucky to claim him. Body, soul, blood, everything.

Steve grabs the knife, bringing it to his abs. “Cut me.”

Bucky does without hesitation. The bite sears into Steve. He hisses, hitting his head against the hallway wall. Bucky’s so hard, he’s thrusting up and down on Steve’s thigh, still working the knife. He brings it up to his lips, lapping at the blood. His eyes flutter.

“Jesus, Buck,” Steve gasps. He looks down at the blood, a dripping B. “More.”

The pain makes Steve so intoxicatingly wet. He’s throbbing between his legs, trembling. His fingers are up in Bucky’s hair, messing it up, blocking Bucky’s view and he’s rocking forward, hungry for any kind of pleasure on his body. The pain washes through him, filling his veins, tugging at his nerves. His vision blurs and he whines, leaning forward.

“Kiss me, please Bucky, kiss me.”

Bucky does. His lips taste like blood. He presses his prosthesis down on Steve’s hips, rocking harder, pressing them into the wall. “Wanna fuck you, baby.”

Steve whines. “Please.”

They barely make it to their room before Bucky’s got Steve on his dick, pounding into him ruthlessly. He comes inside Steve twice before their bodies give out from exhaustion.

Steve’s on T. It’s highly unlikely he’ll get pregnant anyway. There’s the risk—there’s always the risk. But unlikely.


Steve wakes to bloodied sheets, a searing pain in his side and Bucky’s head pressed into his neck. He groans, feeling the dried blood on the bed. These sheets are ruined. He rolls off the bed, immediately going for the bathroom to relieve his full bladder. Afterwards, he looks at the room. Bucky’s knife is on the floor. His fingers are stained red with Steve’s blood. He’s still passed out.

Steve sighs, looking at the badly written Bucky on his side. It’ll scar over eventually, but Steve’s pretty sure the name won’t ever entirely fade. He’s actually pretty proud of that. Bucky’s a monster, but he’s Steve’s monster. Even monsters have families.

Steve’s naked, shuffling back into the bedroom. He slips on one of Bucky’s plaid shirts and decides he doesn’t want pants or underwear. Bucky’s eyes are finally opening, two bleary orbs that show more love than Bucky’s ever said before. But at least he’s started to.

“Mornin’,” Steve says.

Bucky stretches, pointing at the wound on Steve’s side. “I did that.”

“You did.” Steve crawls onto the bed, straddling Bucky. “Wanna touch it again?”

Bucky traces the lines of the wound. It stings and kind of itches, but Steve likes the way Bucky smiles at it. “We ruined the sheets.”

“Yup.”

“I’m sorry.”

“No you’re not.” For once, it’s the only apology that Steve’s genuinely pleased that Bucky’s really not sorry for.

“You’re right,” Bucky says. He grabs Steve, pulling him down and flipping them over so Bucky’s on top. “I’m not sorry that you’re mine.”

Steve shivers. He pushes Bucky’s head to his chest, and Bucky latches onto a nipple sucking roughly. Steve arches his back, already grinding his body up. Bucky starts chewing softly, pulling a yelp from Steve. Fingers tug at Bucky’s hair, and Steve pulls his lover back up so their lips slosh together. They rock into each other, until Bucky’s slipping inside, completely unannounced. Steve squeezes around him, rocking back and forth slowly.

“You’re so warm,” Bucky says, kissing the side of Steve’s face. “So warm and so damn wet. All fuckin’ mine.”

Steve shivers again. Each possessive little syllable makes his toes stretch out in want. He rolls his hips, feeling the tip of Bucky slip in and out of him. Bucky brings his cock up between Steve’s lips, and rocks back and forth, stimulating Steve’s little cock.

“Oh Jesus, fuck, fuck me, more, God—fuck!” Steve grips Bucky’s hips, pulling him closer, letting their bodies smack loudly into each other. It hurts, the pressure like someone beating into Steve’s pelvis, but he enjoys it. He mumbles out syllables with no actual meaning, chirping sharply when Bucky snaps his hips in and out.

Bucky massages at Steve’s cock, getting it wet and swivels his fingers around and around. Steve gasps, pressing his head back into the bed. “I’m gonna—Bucky I’m gonna—”

His orgasm shakes out of him and he screams into Bucky’s neck, clamping down with his teeth. It lasts so long he doesn’t know if his heart will give out after or not. Pain presses into his pelvis, that never-ending snapping of Bucky’s hips as Bucky doubles over, moaning in Steve’s ear.

“B-Bucky,” Steve pants. “I’m gonna get pregnant if we keep doin’ it like this.”

Bucky pulls back, blinking. “Oh God.”

“What?”

Bucky pulls out, flinging himself off the bed and runs into the bathroom.

“Bucky!” Steve rolls off the bed, moving to knock on the door. “Baby what’s wrong?”

Bucky doesn’t answer.

Steve feels come dribble between his legs, he whines, banging his head on the door. “Bucky I need to clean myself up!”

Bucky still doesn’t answer.

Steve opens the door with the penny he keeps in his sock drawer in case Bucky locks himself in the bathroom (like right now). Bucky’s in the corner, his limbs folded into each other and his head buried in his lap.

“Bucky.” Steve sighs, pinching the bridge of his nose. “Hey, what’s wrong?”

“I fucked up,” Bucky says. It’s muffled into his knees.

“You didn’t fuck up.” Steve sits next to him, wincing as the cold nips at his ass.

“I didn’t wear a condom.”

“I didn’t ask you to.”

“I’m supposed to always wear a condom.”

Steve leans on the toilet, watching Bucky. He’s so beautiful when he cries. Fragile tears sparkle down his face and cling to that curved jaw. Steve wants to paint him like this.

“I said I wanted you to make me yours last night. You’ve already come inside me.”

Bucky sucks back a sharp breath. “I can’t have a baby, Steve.”

Steve’s heart breaks. It’s the sound of a chandelier dropping in the middle of a dinner party. The sound snuffs out everything around them, all eyes staring.

“I can’t.” Bucky comes out of his tangled limbs and drops his face against Steve’s shoulder. “I’m not supposed to be that person.”

“What person?”

“The person who—a family—that ain’t me, Steve.” Bucky wipes the tears from his eyes. “I’d fuck it all up.”

Steve knows this. Hearing it, however, is like closing a book for the last time. He suffered through the pages, but the end leaves him oddly satisfied. Steve wants children, doesn’t matter how he has them. Maybe they can adopt one day, maybe get an older child so Bucky’s not so afraid. Maybe they’ll adopt dogs or cats. It’s an odd feeling of confirmation—a weight lifted. Steve never has to be pregnant. The thought fills him with so much relief that he pulls Bucky into him, hugging tightly.

“I love you,” Steve whispers.

Bucky clings to Steve, but he doesn’t say it back. After so much emotional exertion, all the tears and the confessions, Steve isn’t surprised Bucky’s starting to recoil again.

“I’ll make breakfast. Do you want anything?” Steve asks, standing.

Bucky stares at the wall. He stares for such a long time that Steve considers walking away, but then he remembers the feeling of bitter sadness when Bucky had walked away from him.

“No,” Bucky finally answers, voice barely audible.

Steve nods. They had their fun. They shared their love. This is the Bucky Steve’s used to. Why he’s crying as he leaves the room, he doesn’t know. This is the Bucky he knows.

He still fell in love with him all the same.

But Steve still cries as he walks down the hall. He still cries…

 

 

Chapter Text

“Whatcha doin’ for Halloween, Steve?” Angie asks from behind the bar. She’s finishing up rolling cutlery in napkins. “Any parties? You’s gotta be seein’ Sam or somethin’ right?”

Steve licks his lips. He stares at the commission he’s doing for Angie, a cute little painting of Peggy’s dog. It’s supposed to be a surprise, but Steve’s not sure how long Angie can hold it all in. She’s too bubbly a person. She enjoys making people happy too much to hide secrets.

“I dunno. Sam’s—I haven’t seen him in so long.”

Angie leans on the counter. Her plump lips bunch up and she sways slowly. “C’mon, he’s ya best friend?”

“I know that. Fuck, he’s known me about as long as Peggy has.”

“So you gonna call ‘im?”

Steve drops his paint brush, scrubbing his hands over his face. “I haven’t even brought him to the house yet.”

“You haven’t even brought me t’the house yet.” Angie glares, but Steve knows it’s in jest.

The small amount of communication with Sam isn’t cutting it anymore. Steve does want to see his friends. That was the whole point of moving. But every time Sam asks to hang out, Steve diverts with some bullshit excuse. He’d lied to himself the first few times, really believing he was actually busy. It wasn’t the time Steve was afraid of. It was the fear of Bucky and his Silent Soldiers knowing about Sam. He couldn’t stand them killing him too…

“This is a small town, Steve. Ya gonna run into ‘im eventually.”

“I know that.”

“Peggy tells me Tony’s comin’ to town for our Halloween party. Think he’s bringing Rhodey and Peppa. You should come. Bring Bucky.”

Steve rolls his eyes. “Yeah, bring the agoraphobic around a ton of people. That’s a smart idea.”

Angie crosses her arms, pouting. “Fine. Sorry. Just a damn suggestion.”

“I’m sorry, Ang. That was mean. I just—I wanna go. I do. It’s just—”

“He’s holdin’ ya back. You know that right? You’re a pretty guy. You could have anyone.”

Steve taps his water glass, staring distantly. “I don’t want anyone. I want Bucky.”

Angie huffs, going back to her napkins and silverware. “We know. But that won’t stop me from tellin’ ya that ya crazy for being with that instead of someone nice like Sam or somethin’.”

“Sam’s my best friend. That’d be like me dating Peggy.”

Angie rolls her eyes. “Peggy’s a lesbian.”

Steve smiles. “I know.”

Angie smiles too.

Steve likes the work day. He likes selling his art and seeing the money finally start coming in. They don’t have much. They’ve got enough for the essentials—lots of pasta. But Steve can pay the bills and Bucky can—keep doing whatever it is he’s doing. At least they don’t have a house payment. Well, the loan payment… Steve’s not entirely sure how he’s going to pay that this month.

“Uh, Angie, if you uh—if you need additional help around here, you’ll let me know, yeah?”

Angie blinks. “You gotta focus on your art, Steve.”

Steve deflates. “I’ve gotta focus on supporting me and Bucky.”

“That asswhipe needs a damn job. He can come and help out ‘round here. Jesus Mary and Joseph.” She turns briskly, stomping off toward the back kitchen. Steve just smiles. He likes how supportive she is of his art. It’s these moments at closing time that Steve really feels like a regular guy again. He’s worrying about bills and seeing about second jobs. He’s talking about his “deadbeat” boyfriend who none of his friends approve of. It’s a great time and it makes him feel so damn normal.

There’s a tapping on the glass door. Peggy’s there in her raincoat, all bundled up with her velvet hat and scarf. She’s the epitome of a woman in Fall. Steve wants to paint her like that. Angie shuffles over to the door and unlocks it, kissing her girlfriend briefly before heading back over to the bar. “Five minutes and I’ll be done, a’kay?”

“Sure sweetheart.” Peggy glides over to Steve, her hips swaying with ease. Steve can’t stop watching them. She’s perfectly poised. An artist’s wet dream, honestly. Soft brushstrokes, easy lines that flow from the hip to the knee… Jesus she’d be the perfect muse to draw day in and day out.

“Stop drooling you dog.” She flicks Steve’s jaw, smirking.

“Hey Pegs.”

“Pegs? You haven’t called me that since high school.”

Steve shrugs.

“I told him to call Sam but he’s bein’ stubborn. Knock some sense into ‘im?” Angie says as she starts counting down the cash register.

Peggy glares, her brown eyes narrowing. “You have to see Sam.”

“What are you two? My parents? I’ve got parents in Brooklyn!”

Peggy rolls her eyes. “Yes, a deadbeat abusive father and a mother who—” Peggy slams her mouth shut. “Oh, I’m sorry. I almost overstepped my bounds.”

“It’s fine.” Though Steve’s now ramrod straight in his barstool. He knows his mother’s with a bad man. It’s no one’s place to judge her. She’s the strongest woman Steve knows and her support has meant the world to Steve. When Steve came out as trans, she took every beating Steve's father tried throwing at Steve. Steve owes her more than just his life.

“So, are you coming to our Halloween party?”

“Sam’s gonna be there, he’ll probably make up some dumb excuse why he can’t.” Angie bumps the cash register closed with her hip and then moves over to the glasses to finish putting them all away under the bar.

“Bucky—”

“Bucky-smucky,” Peggy interjects. “You’re coming. No excuse. If you don’t come then I’ll never speak to you again.” She smiles. Steve knows she’s joking. She wouldn’t really care outside of the standard disappointment of not seeing a friend. She’s being so adamant for Steve’s benefit. Steve appreciates it, honestly. He’s glad he has friends like Peggy and Angie. And maybe a nice Halloween party is really what he needs to get back into truly feeling like a regular guy again. He’s not some prisoner anymore. He can live his life. He wants to live it with his friends and family.

“Okay, fine! Fine I’ll come!”

Angie and Peggy both squeal in delight. Angie rushes over, grabbing Steve’s shoulders. “We need’ta pick out a costume! I’ve got such good ideas!”

“Oh here it goes,” Peggy laughs. “Darling, your ideas are terrible!”

“No, Steve, listen here! What if ya painted your face like those Kiss band members and wore some kind of French outfit! You’d be a French Kiss!”

“Oh wow, that’s terrible and already overdone,” Steve states. He can’t stop the smile on his face though. It spreads wide and heats up his whole body. Costumes, Halloween… Yes, this is exactly what he needs.

He just hopes he can convince Bucky to come too…


Then

“No.”

The word hits Steve with a finality he hadn’t expected. It’s the sound of nails sealing off a coffin, or the sound of the heart monitor as it flatlines. Steve gapes, watching Bucky finish skinning a corpse. The face is monstrous. Does he really look that horrifying beneath the skin? Muscles, round eyes and a smile that won’t falter. It’s unsettling. He squirms, trying to look away.

“Why not?”

“Because I can’t deal with people, Steve.”

“You deal with me?” Steve steps forward, but the smell of the corpse makes him stop. He covers his nose. How does Bucky sit there so casually? The smell is rotten iron. Steve’s stomach is in knots.

“You’re not like most people.” Bucky puts the knife down. He holds up the skin, smiling. “Think we could make blinds outta this? I think if we stretched it, we’d get a nice amount of coverage.”

“Bucky,” Steve says, “I could go to the store and get blinds.”

“I don’t want to go.”

“It’ll be fun though!” Steve steps closer, trying with all his might to ignore the corpse bent over the kitchen table. “You could hold my hand, and we could do just one store. Please, please Buck I’m goin’ crazy.”

Bucky snorts, sewing parts of the skin together. “Need’ta wash it off. Let it dry a bit I think. It’ll shrink.”

“Bucky! Are you even listening?”

“You ever skin a deer? Deer pelt doesn’t shrink as bad as human pelt.”

Steve grimaces. Human…pelt? “Bucky, c’mon. I know you trust me. You love me. We’ll be fine!”

Bucky throws the knife, it wizzes by Steve’s ear and lodges behind him in the wall. Steve stares, wide-eyed and trembling. “Did you not fuckin’ hear me? I said no! You go out that door with me ‘round people and you’ll see!” His voice cracks, emotion pouring from his usually stilted face. “I’ll lose you.”

Steve softens, stepping closer now to kneel before Bucky. He reaches up, cupping Bucky’s unshaven face. He strokes his fingers, casual over the lines of Bucky’s jaw. It’s like rough sandpaper. “I’ve already seen you, at your best and at your worst. You said I was free to go at any time. I’ve never left you, Buck. Never.”

Bucky sucks in a sharp breath.

“When you’re inside, I’m out there in the car, just waiting for you to come back to me. I worry about you in there, Buck. I worry someone’s gonna fight back and hurt you.”

Bucky cups Steve’s hand. “You do? You worry?”

Steve smiles. “Of course.” He leans forward, kissing Bucky’s knee. “I’m in love with you Bucky. Trust me, please.”

“Are you sure it’s real?” Bucky’s voice is trembling. “I stole you.”

Steve nods. “I know it is. You always told me I could leave. After you untied me—of course.”

Bucky laughs. It’s strangled, too weak to be a true chuckle, but it’s still there. His eyes are wet with tears and his hand is still on Steve’s. He’s so open that Steve just wants to drink him up and savor this forever. He loves seeing Bucky’s vulnerabilities. He loves knowing he’s human.

“Come with me. Just you n’ me on a date. I wanna kiss you in public and share lemonade on the beach. C’mon, Buck.”

Bucky recoils. He drops his face next to the skinned corpse, letting out what sounds like a sob. “I’m sorry. I—I can’t. I’m sorry. I wanna, Steve. I really wanna—but I can’t.”

Steve sits back on his haunches, clicking his tongue. He’s not ready to give up on this, not yet.


Now

Steve’s bouncing his leg excitedly when Bucky comes home, carrying jars and bags of meat and organs that Steve is absolutely not eating (or cooking…).

Bucky goes over to the fridge, putting away the jars and bags like he’s putting away any grocery haul.

“Hey, uh, Bucky?”

Bucky looks over his shoulder, blinking blank eyes. Steve feels a bit of dejection. Usually Bucky’s more vibrant when he’s been working with corpses or killing.

“What’s your take on Halloween?”

Bucky licks his lips, staring.

“I mean, cause—Pegs n’ Ang—”

“No.”

“You didn’t even let me finish!”

“I know what yer gonna say, and I’m sayin’ no!”

Steve drops his head on the table, groaning. “Oh c’mon! It’s the only night of the year where you’re gonna be perfectly accepted!”

“What the fuck’s that supposed ta’mean?” Bucky slams the fridge door closed. Steve hears the jars inside rattle. “You’re pissed the world won’t accept you, so you gotta take it out on me?”

“Bucky—”

“Fuck you, Steve! I’m sick of your oddity shit! I’m a God damned murderer and I’m fine with it. And you’re a—” He stops, sucking in a gasp. His eyes round, but it’s too late.

Steve already feels tears burn his eyes. “I’m a what, Bucky?”

Bucky bites his lip. His hair curtains around his face. Steve can only see his chin.

“I just want—I just wanted to go to a party with my boyfriend. I wasn’t meaning it like—well maybe I was. I ain’t perfect, Buck. You still scare me sometimes.”

Bucky tenses.

“But I scare myself too. I just wanted a night where we could be—normal. Both of us.”

Bucky clutches the island. His fingers are trembling. Steve watches the tendons jerk beneath the skin, casting erratic shadows like wavering leaves in the wind. “This is my normal.” The words are so strained that Steve doesn’t even recognize Bucky’s voice. “This is what I am, Steve. You’re what you are. This is our normal. When’re ya gonna realize that?”

Steve deflates, standing up. “I’m sorry.” He tries to hug Bucky, but Bucky steps back, bristling.

“Sometimes I wanna take a knife and swirl it around inside your throat, so you won’t fuckin’ talk about normal anymore.”

Steve clears his throat, grabbing it.

Bucky looks at Steve, his eyes dead, stormy gray. “That’s just who I am, Steve. This is me normal.” He stomps off, going outside and slamming the sliding door.

Steve stands there, unsure if the world is spinning too fast or if his heart’s giving out. He’d been so focused on the concept of normalcy that he didn’t stop to think about perspective. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Bucky thinks blood is beautiful. Steve thinks it’s gross. Steve thinks parties are fun. Bucky thinks they’re horrible. Perspective of normalcy is relative.

“Shit.” The words echo into the silent room. Steve looks out the window, watching Bucky throw knives into a tree with more force than necessary. He’s pissed and Steve doesn’t exactly want to come between him or the tree. Steve’s never seen Bucky pissed before…

He knows for certain that he never wants to see it again.


Steve’s in bed, nestled with a book, when Bucky finally slinks into the room. He pads over to the side of the bed, stripping.

Steve just watches, abandoning the book.

Bucky drops his prosthesis. The heavy thing clatters to the floor. Bucky drops onto the bed and crawls into Steve’s arms.

Steve whimpers, pulling Bucky against him. He strokes his fingers through Bucky’s hair, pressing his cheek to the top of his lover’s head. “I love you.”

“I love you too,” Bucky whispers. “S’the only thing I know for sure in my life. That I love you.”

“Yeah?”

Bucky nods. He brings a hand up to Steve’s chest and distantly traces along the scars from Steve’s top surgery. “I love these.”

Steve flicks up his brow. “I don’t.”

“Shows me how strong you are. I’ve always known you were strong. You put that chair in Jack’s belly and I just know you’d be the best thing in my life.”

Steve laughs softly. He kisses Bucky’s head before nuzzling against it again.

“We’re a horrible couple, you know?” Bucky sighs. “We fight more than we don’t. We don’t even have the same hobbies or interests. Why’re you even with me? If you’re afraid I’ll kill you, that ain’t gonna happen. You can leave me and I ain’t gonna do shit to you, Steve. I swear.”

Steve bites his lip. He’s cried too much since they moved into this house. He doesn’t want to do it again now. “I’m not afraid of you killin’ me. Nat—maybe.”

“I won’t let her.” Bucky’s tone is absolute. He looks up at Steve with determined eyes. “If you leave me, I promise you’ll still be safe. No one’s gonna hurtcha, Steve. I swear.”

“I don’t—I don’t wanna leave you. I don’t care that we like different things. We still have fun together.”

Bucky snorts. “Doin’ what?”

Steve sucks in a breath when the words don’t come easy. He’s not sure… This entire time he’s stayed with Bucky, he hasn’t even found out why he has. He loves him, but why?

“That’s what I thought.” Bucky settles his head back against Steve’s chest, still idly tracing the scars.

“We have great sex?” Steve finally says. “We can talk about my issues, and you provide great insight. We don’t mind simple foods or bein’ broke. We’re both into art? You spend a lot of time lookin’ at my art.”

Bucky huffs out what Steve thinks is supposed to be a laugh. He slots his leg between Steve’s, curling more into Steve.

“We both like music?” Steve keeps going. “We don’t need to be that couple who’s exactly the same. I love you for what makes you…you.”

Bucky closes his eyes. “No you don’t.”

“Stop tryin’ to push me away, Bucky.” The words are soft, a desperate whisper. “You’re so afraid that I’ll leave that you keep tryin’ to make it happen so you don’t gotta wait for it anymore. I know what you’re doing, Buck.”

Bucky doesn’t say anything.

“I know you, Bucky Barnes. Yeah, I’m not—I’m not good with this life perfectly. But I tried at least? I went on hunts with you. I still draw you designs. I’m tryin’ to support us with my art? I’m tryin’ here, Buck. I’m trying to give us a life together. Maybe if you—maybe if you try with me too…”

Bucky turns away from Steve, grabbing a pillow and spooning it. He sighs, reaching up to turn the light off with his good arm. “You wanna go to that party?”

“Only with you.”

“Fine. I’ll go. But no stupid couple’s costumes. I wanna pick my own.”

Steve smiles, leaning over to kiss Bucky’s shoulder, then the curve of the shoulderblade, and then he’s just kissing every shadow and freckle on Bucky’s back. “Lemme suck you off?”

Bucky snorts. “Jesus.”

“C’mon.” Steve crawls over Bucky, wiggling his hips. “You love my mouth.”

Bucky rolls his eyes.

“Please, Buck? I wanna suck on it.”

“Stop talkin’ like that.”

Steve smiles like the devil himself. “Like what? I just wanna hold it in my mouth, baby. It’s so pretty. Wanna suck on that tip and taste you. C’mon. I want it.”

“Fuck! Okay! Okay! Just—just stop talkin’ like that!”

Steve sits up, laughing. “You don’t like my dirty talk?”

Bucky slips off his boxers, stroking himself a few times to get hard. He hisses, jerking up into his hand. “I love it, you fuckwad. Now suck me off.”

“Mmm, love it when you get all demanding.”

Steve gets under the covers, situating himself between Bucky’s legs and takes his time teasing Bucky with his mouth before finally letting him come. Bucky doesn’t once protest, and Steve goes to sleep with the taste of Bucky on his mouth, and the feel of Bucky’s breath tickling against the crook of his neck.


Then

Bucky’s practically glued to Steve’s side as they walk along the docks. They’re sharing a frozen lemonade, but Bucky’s hardly touched it. People walk on by, completely oblivious to Bucky’s darker nature. Steve watches children stare up at Bucky, fixated on the metal hand. They don’t know what he’s capable of. No one does. No one expect Steve.

Like this, Bucky’s a meek little mouse. His eyes are round and he won’t stop worrying at his lips. They’re so chapped from his incessant biting. Steve wants to slip his tongue over them to soothe the bites, but he knows saliva makes it worse. Still, he does want to kiss Bucky. Over and over.

“You okay?” he asks.

Bucky nods, watching a child run past with a Frisbee. His spine snaps straight and he clutches Steve so tight that his nails are digging in painfully.

Steve winces, but he doesn’t recoil. He wraps his arm tighter around Bucky’s shoulders. “You’re okay.”

“I wanna go back.”

“Just walk with me on the beach. We’ll watch the waves and it’ll be okay. This is just the crowded part. Once we’re off the dock we’ll be fine.”

Bucky whines, but he keeps walking.

“You’re doin’ great, Buck.” Steve’s voice is hushed and close to Bucky’s ear. Bucky’s lips twitch and Steve assumes that’s all he’ll get for a response. They get to the stairs and shuffle down. “I’m gonna take my shoes off.” He uses Bucky to balance as he slips his shoes off and holds them to his side. “You wanna too?”

Bucky shakes his head no.

“It’s nice. Sand’s warm.”

“No.”

Steve bites his tongue to keep from throwing some stupid remark Bucky’s way. Bucky’s out here with Steve because he cares. Steve doesn’t want to violate that. It’s interesting, that a man with so much agoraphobia can command a group of killers. What is it about them that’s different aside from the obvious? They’re still human.

They walk along the shore. The water is chilly despite the summer heat. Steve looks down at the frozen lemonade, it’s more like regular lemonade at this point, but Bucky doesn’t seem interested in it anymore. “We can throw that away?”

Bucky looks at the cup he’s holding. He stares at it like he didn’t even realize it was there. He looks around, finding a garbage. Instead of taking Steve with him, he separates.

Steve’s smile is wide as he watches Bucky walk to the garbage. And then his happiness turns to horror when he sees that Frisbee again heading straight for Bucky…


Now

Steve stares at the phone—the one he shares with Bucky. Sam’s number is punched in, but Steve hasn’t hit the send button just yet. He’s got his face screwed up, like this is akin to a tooth-pulling more than just calling his best friend. He knows he should talk to Sam. The summer’s occasional emails they sent to each other will eventually press on Sam’s nerves and then he’ll come looking. Steve’s not entirely sure how he hasn’t seen Sam in town yet, but maybe Sam’s been keeping his space out of respect. Sam’s good like that.

“It’s just a phone call you dumbass,” Steve says to himself. He picks up the phone, staring at the backlit numbers. They’re mocking him, teasing and laughing at his inability to just call his closest fucking friend. He hasn’t really said much about Bucky. He said he’d met someone, and that was really it. Sam never asked anything more because Sam knows Steve too well. Steve’s never really been one to be good with emotions. He’s kind of on the border of constant emotional constipation or constant emotional breakdown. There’s never an in-between.

He finally hits the call button and it starts ringing. On the third ring, Sam picks up. His polite hello is the most reassuring sound Steve’s ever heard. It’s soothes his soul and lets his lungs breathe again.

“Hey Sam,” Steve says, unsteady. “Been a long time.”

“Jesus, Steve? Long time is an understatement.”

“Uh, yeah.”

“What’s up, man? How you been?”

Steve settles into the sofa, feeling his chest muscles relax. “I moved? Got a new house with Bucky.”

“I heard. Peggy told me. Tell me about this guy? Peggy’s not a fan.”

Steve sighs. “Yeah. He’s—he’s not exactly easy to get along with. He’s got severe agoraphobia and some other issues.” Steve decides dropping the murder bomb on Sam isn’t really appropriate for the first five minutes of the conversation. He’s not really sure if he can ever tell him. He’d like to ask Bucky about it though. “He’s good to me though. Loves everything about me.”

“Have you checked his criminal record? Does he have any unpaid parking tickets? What’s his last name?”

“Sam!” Steve laughs, tossing his head back. “He’s fine! We’ve been together since the start of summer.”

“Yeah, and you’ve already moved in with him. Must be a great dude for you to move that fast.”

Steve bites his lip. He's not sure if Sam's being honest or passive aggressive. “I’m sorry I didn’t really tell anyone. I know I kinda just—disappeared, except for it occasional ‘I'm alive’ email.”

There’s a long pause. “Yeah well, we all figured you needed time after Sharon’s murder.”

The name punches Steve in the gut. He reaches down, caressing his stomach, wincing. “Y-yeah. I still can’t believe they’re gone.” It seems like a lifetime ago now, except it’s not even been a year, just a seasonal change… Steve really has moved fast with Bucky. Thoughts of Stockholm Syndrome drift into his mind again. No. No that’s not what happened. Bucky always gave him the option to leave. He never coerced him… never.

Except he stole him, hid him away and forced him to speak to Bucky. He brought Steve food and for a few months, he was the only human Steve saw. Did that make this Stockholm? Steve doesn’t want this love to be fake, but he’s not sure how to know if it’s real? It feels real. How does fake love even feel?

“I wanna meet up with you. Grab lunch at Angie’s diner? I’ve got a little booth in front of it now. Did’ja hear about that?”

Sam laughs. “Yeah man! I actually saw you there a week ago. I just thought—well, I wasn’t sure if it was right of me to just come up to you.”

Steve knew it. “I wish you would’ve. I really miss you.”

“Bucky keep you busy?”

“Not really. I dunno. Maybe we’re still in the puppy love stage.”

“Puppy love, and you already moved into a house with him. Your mom told me you used your college fund. Man—on a scale of fucking stupid to outta your mind, your damn outta your mind.”

Steve feels his face heat up. Embarrassment swells in his heart. “I know. I just—I just needed to do this. College wasn’t really my thing.”

“College is how people get jobs at McDonalds these days, man. What the fuck’re you gonna do now?”

“Art? I’m doin’ okay.”

Sam clicks his tongue. Steve can picture what he looks like, a sneer and a cocked brow that’s calling Steve out on his bullshit. It is bullshit. Steve’s flat broke. He can pay the bills, but that doesn’t really leave much for anything else. They still don’t even have enough furniture in the house. It’s just the essentials. Those quartz counters that Steve wishes he could get are moving farther and farther away in his dreams.

“You gonna be at Peggy’s party? I’ll be there with T’Challa. We’re gonna be cat burglars.”

“T’Challa?”

“Oh! Shit right. He’s at Harvard studying international relations. He’s visiting with me though for one of his papers. S’a good guy. You’ll like him.”

Jealousy burns in Steve’s chest. He looks out the window, watching the leaves dance in the wind. Vivid colors of red, yellow and spots of green mix like paint running down a canvas. He loves the seasonal change. It’s enough to calm him down to keep the conversation going without hinting Sam in on his stupid irrational jealousy. Sam and Steve have been friends since Steve was named “Stacy.” Their friendship isn’t so easily replaceable. Sam was there for Steve’s first consult with a trans savvy doctor and he was the first person Steve saw when he woke from top surgery.

“Nice. I’ve got no idea what I’m gonna be. Bucky doesn’t want to do a couple’s costume either.”

Sam snorts. “How surprising.”

“You don’t even know him!” Steve curls up on the couch, tucking his feet beneath his butt. It’s just like high school again.

“I told you! I’ve heard things!”

Steve hears the front door open and close. He cranes his neck, watching Bucky come in and then filter out the backdoor toward the pond. He’s carrying bags of mulch, which is absolutely frightening considering Steve’s never seen him actively do anything on his own when it comes to purchasing things. It’s either a really good thing, or a really bad one.

“Hey, uh, meet me at Angie’s tomorrow? I’ll even draw you a caricature or something.”

“Sounds good man. I’m excited.”

“Same. Bye.” Steve hangs up, following Bucky outside. He finds him a little further away from the pond. He’s got a few garden beds all set up. Steve blinks, totally caught off guard. “Hey, I didn’t know you were doin’ this?”

“You’re at the art booth and I’m here,” Bucky says, getting on his knees and spreading the mulch out. “Don’t dig in this one, if you ever wanna use it. I’ve got a body under it for compost.”

Steve’s stomach goes cold as he thinks about eating vegetables grown from someone’s stomach. “Oh.”

Bucky finishes spreading out the mulch and then starts digging small holes. “It’s a little late for most stuff, but maybe corn’ll grow. I just needed to do something when you’re gone at work.”

Steve’s eyes soften. He kneels down. “We could grow our own pumpkins? They’ll probably be subpar since it’s so late in the season, but? We could?”

Bucky smiles nodding. “I was thinking some squash too. It’s worth a shot anyway.”

Steve nods. “You’ve got a good green thumb.”

“I think I’ll put up a tent and bring out a heat lamp. Keep ‘em warm.”

“That’s a good idea. A little greenhouse.” Steve sits down, watching Bucky work. He looks at the pond, watching the water ripple from the frogs or insects, then up at the sky. It’s cloudy and windy—a perfect fall day. He’s a little chilly, but he doesn’t want to break the moment. Bucky’s got a nice leather jacket on. Steve’s only in his t-shirt and sweats. He shivers when another gust of wind comes by.

“I’ll be out here for awhile. Go back inside.”

“I like watchin’ you work though. Could I draw you? Doin’ this?”

Bucky stops, looking up at Steve and then at the other bags of mulch. “Sure. Lemme go get the rest of the seedlings?”

Steve nods, jumping up. “I’ll get a hoodie!” He runs back into the house, glad that Bucky went around the house instead. He’s covered in dirt now. Steve picks up a NYU hoodie and throws it over his head. He’s about to head outside again when he hears the phone ring. Brow furrowed, he walks over to it. Nat.

“Hello?”

“Steve, it’s Nat.”

Steve wants to say he already knew but her tone is frantic. “What’s up?”

“Have the cops come by you yet?”

Steve’s heart falls. “What?” He breaks out in a cold sweat and the world spins. Panicked, he falls into the couch to keep from collapsing where he stood. The cops? Is this it? Steve’s thought about it before, what’ll happen if Bucky ever gets found out, but things have been okay… He’s not ready to see Bucky go like that… Would Bucky even be okay in prison? Would they take him to a psych ward? Are there even psych wards!? He doesn’t even know!

“I’ve got a friend on the force. I thought I smashed your phone the night we came to—well the night we met.” At least she’s got some tact, Steve’ll give her that. “They found your phone in the water. The SIM card’s being datamined.”

“You’re fuckin’ shitting me.” They’d lied to the world. To Peggy… Steve had been there the night Sharon died. Bucky hid Steve from the world and to protect both Bucky and Steve, they never let the world know this. Steve said he met Bucky and had to deal with it on his own, and to protect Bucky, Steve never said a word about that night. Now they knew he’d been there… “I’m gonna…I’m gonna pass out.”

“Steve, breathe! Breathe pretty boy!”

Steve clutches his throat, gasping. His breath is coming in sharp, jagged puffs and his heart is pounding behind his eyes. The world’s spinning too fast and he can’t fucking breathe! He drops the phone, wheezing. “Bu—Buck—ky…” He falls onto the floor, trying to use lungs that’re too focused on collapsing inside him. He picks up the phone, throwing it at the sliding door. It thuds off, snapping in two, but doesn’t break the glass. He gasps, trying to get his breathing under control. He needs his inhaler. It’s in the damn bathroom because of course it is. Steve is the worst asthmatic.

Steve’s vision is going spotted when he finally sees Bucky above him. Bucky grabs him, cupping his face. “Steve? What’s wrong? What do I do?!”

Steve points to the bathroom, hiccupping and trying not to pass out. “Bath—can’t—breathe—”

Bucky’s out of the room and returning in what feels like seconds. Steve’s sucking in hoarse, sharp breaths that sound more like someone screaming than breathing. Bucky brings the inhaler to his lips and puffs out the medication. Steve sucks it down, grabbing the thing and administering a few more puffs.

He coughs, doubling over, but he’s breathing again. Bucky’s rubbing his back. His brow’s creased, his eyes straining. He looks like he’s going to vomit. Steve can’t help but smile at how much concern is in Bucky’s face.

“Asthma,” Steve says, coughing again. “I broke the phone.”

Bucky looks at it. “I don’t care. Are you okay?”

Steve shakes his head. “No. Buck—they found my phone. In the lake?”

Bucky blinks once, twice… “Oh.”

Steve nods. “Yeah… What—what do I do? Nat called to warn me.”

Bucky swallows. “I’ve never had to—coach a survivor. It’s easier when you’re all dead.”

“I’m not dead, Bucky.” Steve pointedly flicks Bucky’s shoulder. “Now help me!”

Bucky gets up, grabbing the two pieces of the dodgy flip phone. “How didn’t you break the door?”

Steve shrugs.

“Okay,” Bucky starts pacing, “okay we—you can—well we’ve got options. You didn’t kill anyone, I did. But you were there. So they’re gonna take you for questioning. You’re not in trouble. Just say you didn’t see us?”

“But I told everyone I wasn’t there!” Steve’s brows pinch together. “If Peggy knows I saw Sharon die—this is gonna ruin everything!”

Bucky grimaces. “I know, but—I don’t know what to do, Steve. You can’t run. I can’t have you lookin’ guilty.”

Steve sits up, leaning against the couch. He flops his head back, staring up at the ceiling. “I’m fucked. I either tell them I was there and piss Peggy off, or I try to evade them and I’m on suspicion of murder. I’m probably already on their suspect list since I acted like I was never there. Stupid, stupid!”

Bucky doesn’t answer.

“Peggy’s gonna hate me…” Steve drops his hand over his face, sighing loudly. “Fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck!”

Bucky still doesn’t say anything.

“What do I say? We need—we need to talk about my story.”

Bucky sits on the sofa. Steve leans against him, dropping his head on Bucky’s knee. He’s warm, despite having been outside.

Steve closes his eyes. “Pet me.”

“What?” Bucky asks.   

“Just pet me, like I pet you. On your head. I need it, please.”

Bucky reaches his hand out, scratching at Steve’s scalp. It relaxes Steve’s muscles and he shivers up and down his spine.

“Tell me what to do,” Steve says. “I’m gonna go into another attack if you don’t tell me what to do.”

“Uh—stay calm. Don’t act nervous. Sometimes the truth is better than a lie, even if it’ll hurt someone. You should tell them you didn’t say anything because you got away and you were afraid we’d come for you. It’s the only lie you’ll have to tell. Maybe Peggy’ll understand.”

Steve snorts, but he scoots closer to Bucky, rolling his head so Bucky will scratch more of Steve’s scalp. “Doubtful.”

“Don’t be a stubborn ass either.” Bucky flicks Steve’s neck. “Just be respectful. I don’t think you have anything to worry about.”

“Jesus, this is horrifying.”

Bucky pats Steve’s head, humming in affirmation. “You’ll be fine. I believe in you.”

Steve looks up, his eyes round and weepy. He slowly sits on the couch, still staring. “You do?”

Bucky nods, smiling. “You can do anything, Steve. There’s not a doubt in my mind.”

“That’s—that’s kind of refreshing to hear.” Steve bites his lip, looking at the TV. “When do you think they’ll come find me?”

Bucky shrugs. “Dunno. I try to stay away from cops.”

“Makes sense.” Steve drops his head back on the couch. “Man, the waiting game’s gonna suck.”

“I can give you a foot rub?” Bucky scoots closer. “Or a backrub. Whatever.”

“I like you all doting.” He scoots back into Bucky, shimmying his shoulders. “Back rub!”

“Dork.”


Then

The Frisbee hits Bucky before Steve has a chance to stop it or even scream out. Bucky turns, his eyes vicious. His teeth are barred and he raises his prosthesis into the air, prepared to strike. The child from before runs up to Bucky, and Steve watches in horror as he backhands the kid, screaming at him.

Steve runs, horrified. The child’s crying, adults are watching. He comes up to Bucky, but Bucky shoves him into the sand.

“GET AWAY FROM ME! YOU FUCKING LIAR! YOU SAID IT’D BE OKAY!” Bucky takes off at a run, barreling along the sand.

Steve looks at the child, wincing at the gash on his cheek. “I’m so sorry,” Steve says. “He’s got, he’s afraid of people.”

“Oh my God! Tommy!” a woman rushes up to the child, dropping before him. “What happened?!”

“T-that m-man—my Frisbee—he hit—”

The woman turns on Steve, her eyes every bit as angry as Steve would assume a mother’s eyes would look. “What did you do?!”

“Not him!” Tommy, the child cries out.

Steve looks on mournfully, guilt rolling in his stomach. “My friend’s—he’s agoraphobic. Your son scared him.”

“My son is a child. Look at his face!”

Steve can see the gash. He looks over his shoulder, trying to find Bucky, but he’s gone. “I’m sorry.”

“No one should strike a child like this. What the fuck is wrong with him?!”

“He’s an amputee. He’s got agoraphobia and the Frisbee hit him. He didn’t mean it. He took off terrified. I’m sorry. I’ll pay—I’ll pay for medical bills or whatever, just please don’t press charges or anythin’.”

The woman looks at the child and then back at Steve. “He won’t need a doctor. Just a good scrubbing. You should be more careful where you bring your friend. He’s dangerous.”

Steve nods, relief flourishing inside. “I know, ma’am. I thought it’d be good for him. I’m sorry.”

The woman takes her son and doesn’t say another word to Steve. Steve doesn’t fault her. She’s got a child to tend to. Steve’s lost his… Bucky’s not a child, but he’s a person who needs to be watched around others.

He takes off down the shoreline, shouting, “BUCKY?! BUCKY WHERE ARE YOU?!” He doesn’t care that people are glaring at him. This is all his fault. Bucky would be safe at the stupid shack if Steve hadn’t forced him out of it. This is all on Steve. Even that kid’s bloody face.


Now

Steve’s sitting at his art booth. Every cop car that goes by, he’s terrified it’s the one coming for him. He’s made zero sales today and has fucked up two commissions. He even had to refund someone for messing up the caricature. He’s so distracted he feels like just closing up shop and walking to the police station to get it all over with.

He sighs, rubbing at his temples when two men in uniform come up to him. No cop car, no siren. Just two officers with smiling faces.

“Is Stacy Rogers going to be back?” The officer looks confused. It takes Steve a few seconds to remember he’s registered female on his driver’s license. He’s never been one to want to wait at the BMV in New York… Fuck those lines.

“That’s me, actually.” Steve stands up, sighing. “I’m Stacy.”

The officer nods, but he looks skeptical. “We have her license, she's a woman.”

Steve smiles politely. “I was assigned female at birth. I can assure you I'm Stacy, but I go by Steve now.”

There's a beat of uncomfortable silence. The cops look at each other, exchanging silent conversations and then and shrug. Steve watches, amused.

“We wanna know if you’d speak to us? It’s about your phone. We found it in a lake.”

“I know.” Steve crosses his arms, looking at Angie through the window. She’s got her brow all crinkled and is overflowing someone’s cup of coffee. He’ll miss her happiness once they all learn he’s a vicious traitor and a liar. Monsters don’t just kill people. They lie to make things easier. They hide things from their friends because they’re selfish. Monsters come in all shapes and sizes.

“Then you’ll come to the station with us?” the other officer asks. “We just have some questions.”

Steve nods. “Sure.”


The station is warm. Steve’s not sure why he’d expected an interview room to be cold, but it’s almost unbearably hot. Maybe it has something to do with cells being cold or made of steel and bland colors. As an artist, Steve knows the difference between cold and warm colors.

The weather’s chilly outside. He’s used to sitting out there for his art, bundled up with his jean jacket and hoodie. He’s already shed the jacket and he’s about to take the hoodie off when a caramel-skinned woman comes into the room. She’s dressed nicely and drops a file on the table. She smiles, but it’s all professional.

“I’m Detective Stacy Dolan. Since we share a name, I gotta ask, why’ve you never changed your driver’s license? Is that—is that even okay to ask?”

Steve laughs. “Depends on the person. I don’t mind. I’m pretty open about it. I’m still Stacy legally, but I go by Steve now.”

“Any reason for Steve?” She leans back, smiling. She’s pretty, Steve thinks.

“It’s simple, nondescript and five letters, just like Stacy.”

“Stacy’s also a man’s name? It’s unisex.”

Steve crosses his arms. “Now you’re starting to cross a line.” He’s not unkind about it. Changing his name was one of the biggest steps in his journey to expressing his gender identity. Steve meant more than just being a name… It was the life he wanted to lead. Nondescript, but good. A nice solid name for a nice solid life. Call him a wishful thinker.

Detective Dolan looks down at her notes, pursing her lips. “That’s fair. We’re not here to discuss your name anyway.”

“No…” Steve looks away, furrowing his brow.

“But you know why we’re here?”

Steve nods.

“So then explain it to me.”

“You found my phone in the lake where Harry got killed.”

Detective Dolan writes something in her notes, nodding. “Why was your phone in the lake?”

Steve shrugs. “Dunno. They took it when they first got ahold of me.”

“Who?” She stops writing.

Steve looks at the clock. The room’s too warm. He’s all stuffed up, sweating and terrified about unleashing this lie. And it is a lie. Bucky can dress it up or down anyway he likes, but it’s still a lie. He knows exactly who took the phone, why they took the phone and where they are to this day. It’s suddenly so clear to Steve the position of power he’s in. The threat that Natasha mentioned? It was never about pulling Bucky away—not really. It’s about the here and now.

Steve could end it all for them, right now.

He sighs, pulling his hoodie over his head to buy him some time. If he tells the detective the truth, he saves lives. Every life that Bucky has taken will be avenged and every life that he will take tomorrow, in a week or a month—they’ll all be spared. Steve had been so sure he’d come here and just tell them the story Bucky said to, but now he’s not so sure.

Is it right to hide this? The Silent Soldiers are brutal. They’re deeply disturbed and just because they didn’t kill Steve doesn’t make them good people. Not a single one of them. Bucky loves Steve. Steve loves Bucky. But is Steve selfish enough to turn away when he could truly help so many? He’d be the reason people could sleep better at night knowing the Silent Soldiers weren’t out there anymore. He could end it all for everyone afraid… All the lives…

“I got away,” Steve says. “I got away from the Silent Soldiers.”

Detective Dolan nods, writing in her notes.

“They took all our phones. Guess they were finding ways to get rid of ‘em. I got away, and I hid because—because—” This is it. He can either jump from the cliff or save the lives yet fallen. He swallows, looking up at the clock again. The hands tick on, life continues moving and the people next on Bucky’s chopping block keep getting closer and closer to their end. Steve has the power to stop it.

“Because why, Steve?”

Steve’s eyes heat up with tears. He covers his face, rushing his words out next. “Because I was scared they’d find me again if I came forward.” The arrow pierces his heart. It explodes inside him and the shreds of his blackened soul dry up and snuff out of existence. This was his chance and he blew it. He could’ve made this all better… But he’s too selfish. He’s in love. Bucky comes before anyone. Before Peggy, Sam…the people already dead or the ones who’ll die. He comes before them all, and Steve can’t stop it. He sobs, wiping his tears with his hoodie.

Detective Dolan nods. “You were afraid the Silent Soldiers would find you?”

“Yes. I hid away with my boyfriend. I stopped talking to all my friends. I just—I couldn’t stop thinkin’ about what happened. They killed Sharon right in front of me.” He looks up, trying his best at sporting his token puppy-dog expression, pinched brow and pouted lips.

Detective Dolan writes something down and chews at her bottom lip. “Who’s your boyfriend? When did you two meet?”

“We met when I first came to Mystic. Uh, his name’s Bucky.” More lies. Lies upon lies that weigh Steve down and whittle him into nothing… He’s never been more ashamed of himself. “We just actually moved back to town. I’ve been tryin’ to reach out to friends and stuff again.”

“And why didn’t you come report what happened to us now? Since you’ve been out of hiding?”

Steve bites his lip. She doesn’t even miss a beat. “Because I didn’t want them to come after me? If I lay low, I’m maybe okay?”

“They’ve let two people escape this year, you and a woman named Wanda Maximoff. I’ll need to get an official statement typed up for you to sign. Can you tell us anything about the killers? We know there’s three men and a woman. They wear masks?”

“Yeah, a duck, a rabbit, and I can’t remember the other ones.” Not to mention that Nat doesn’t wear a mask… That’d blow this entirely.

“How did you escape?”

“I shoved a chair into one of them and made a breakthrough. I think I cut him.”

“They cleaned up good that night. We saw no broken chairs or any blood. The only body not cleaned and bleached was the one in the lake.”

“Harry. I—I heard him screaming.” Steve closes his eyes. “Shit, I heard him screaming…”

Detective Dolan reaches out, grabbing Steve’s wrist. “It’s okay. Take it easy. We’ve got time to talk.”

Steve sniffles, wiping his nose. He’s tried so hard to suppress that night. Remembering it makes him remember how Bucky looked at him—how a murderer truly looks when staring at the one they’ll kill.

Steve stares at the metal table, moving his arms over it to absorb its cold. He sighs. “I haven’t talked about this night. Ever.”

“Go slow then. Start from the beginning. Just a recap. Doesn’t have to be anything detailed.”

“We were at Sharon’s lakehouse. I’d moved up here recently and we were just gonna have a good time. The uh, the Silent Soldiers came that night. They played a bunch of sick games on us. Like knocking on the door but not being there, on the windows. Playing weird music. Then they started breaking in. They liked chasing us. They didn’t wanna just grab and kill. They wanted to make it slow.”

Detective Dolan nods, jotting down notes. “Their pattern is pretty much the same all the time, the taunting and game of cat and mouse. What happened when they started rounding up everyone?”

“Uh, I’d been hiding in a closet when they killed Harry. I didn’t see them round up everyone. I got down there after the girl one found me. I ended up getting away from her and bashed a chair into one of the guys and ran. I never came back.”

“And you didn’t think to call the police to try to save anyone else?”

Steve cringes, guilt clawing at his throat. He swallows it down roughly. “Uh, I—no. They were almost all dead at that point. I saw them kill Sharon and that’s when I lost it.”

“So you were sure everyone was dead or dying when you left?”

Steve nods. “I know I fucked up. But I was scared, okay? I’ve never seen people be so—what they did—I—”

“It’s okay. Do you remember what any of them looked like? Could you give physical descriptions at all?”

Steve wanted to give Brock’s description just to see him arrested, but if he went down, Steve was sure Bucky would go down too. “No. Just three guys and a woman. I think they’re all white, but one could’ve been darker skin. I’m not sure.”

“Weight?”

“All fit. Perfect health.”

She jots down more notes and then grabs her coffee. “Okay. I’ll give you my card. If you think of anything else, I’d like you to call me, okay? And please don’t leave Mystic for awhile. If you need to, just let me know?”

Steve takes Detective Dolan’s card, looking at the off-white color and the sans script. It’s an ugly card, but he assumes it wasn’t her choice in design. “Why am I not allowed to leave?”

“In case we need you for the case or have follow up questions.”

“You think I’m a suspect?”

She smiles. “Unfortunately, yes. Though considering the murders were happening long before you came to Mystic, I think it’s safe in assuming you’re probably not one of them. But we always have to be sure.”

Steve nods. “That’s fair, I guess.”

“Do you still fear them?”

“What?”

“Do you still fear them coming for you? The Silent Soldiers?”

Steve licks his lips. He feels it’s a trap question. A normal person who would’ve run and hid would still fear them. Steve had to play her game if he wanted to keep Bucky safe. He sat up, nodding. “Y-yeah. Yeah I do. Even more that you know where I am.”

“We’re the cops though?”

Steve smiles. “People like that don’t murder that many without someone on the inside.” He bites his tongue, unsure if he’d said too much. Nat said she knew a person. But he wasn’t sure if that person knew what Nat did, or just knew Nat as a person. Either way, maybe the subtle hint was okay, instead of outright saying they had inside knowledge of what was happening.

“We can have a squad car outside your house for awhile? Maybe settle your nerves?”

“Oh, that’s really not necessary.”

“I think it’s a good idea.”

Steve shrugged. “I don’t want the officer feeling like he’s babysitting me though?”

Detective Dolan smiles. “That’s their job, to serve and protect. Don’t worry, Steve. We’ll have him come over tomorrow and he can meet you and your boyfriend.”

Steve takes a deep breath, palming the table. Welp.

He just fucked up.


Then

Steve finds Bucky behind a dumpster in a back alley. He’s huddled up, crying and trembling. Steve’s heart folds in on itself. He did this. He’s the reason his lover is a complete mess, sobbing like a child. Steve takes a shaky breath. He wants to comfort Bucky, to tell him it’s all okay now, but it’s not.

Bucky will never stop being afraid of people. Never. Steve blinks tears from his eyes. What caused Bucky to be like this? It eats at him every day but he just fights it off. Bucky will tell him when he’s good and ready—maybe.

“Buck? Y-you wanna go home?”

“I hit a kid…”

Steve shifts his weight, shoving his hands into his pockets.

“I hit a kid.” Bucky reaches up, trembling metal and flesh hands. He scratches himself with one of the edges of the prosthesis. Steve winces, looking at the tiny red line next to Bucky’s eye.

“He’s okay, Buck. Just got a little cut. No biggie.”

“That doesn’t make it right.”

Steve wants to laugh. The irony when a murderer is telling Steve what morality is. He sits next to Bucky, wrapping an arm around him. “You like kids?”

“No.”

“Then why do you care?”

“I don’t hurt kids.”

“Why not? They’re just tiny people.”

Bucky glares, gritting his teeth. He yanks away from Steve. Anger flows from his body into Steve’s. It heats up, sizzling Steve’s nerves. The weather’s warm, but Bucky’s scorching in his intensity.

“I’m going home,” Bucky finally says. “We’re never doing this again.”

Steve’s shoulders slump. He’d tried to lure Bucky with the tiny people remark. He likes that Bucky is visibly upset about hurting a child, but he doesn’t like not knowing why. “Never going out again?”

Bucky stops, flinching. “You’d hate me if I kept you cooped away, wouldn’t you?”

Steve bites his lip, playing with a shoelace. “I’d be disappointed, yes.”

Bucky runs his good hand through his hair. He’s got sweat stains all down his back, like tiger stripes. Steve licks his lips. Bucky has no idea how beautiful of a man he is. The hairs on his chest, the curls of his pubic hair, the way he’s a man—it drives Steve up a wall. How can Steve go from seeing a cornered puppy to a man ready to bend over for in record timing?

“Give me time, Steve. I don’t—I wasn’t ready.”

Steve smiles, though it’s the kind of smile you offer when you don’t want to cry. “I know. I pushed you too hard.”

“S’not your fault. It’s just who I am.” Bucky shoves his hands into his pockets, shrugging. “Thank you though.”

Steve cocks a brow.

“You believed in me.” Bucky’s smile is genuine. For a moment, he’s a real human being, with red-rimmed eyes, flushing cheeks and sweat beading his chest. He’s a real, bona fide person and Steve stops breathing.

“I still do.”

It doesn’t matter that Bucky didn’t talk to Steve for the rest of the night—or had minimal conversation with him for the rest of the week. Steve got a glimpse of a person under all the wrong. He would treasure that for the rest of his life, hold it close to his heart and look at it when things got dark. He’d always remember that underneath all of Bucky’s…evils…there’s a man scared of being alone, who wants to be loved and love in return. There’s a man.

And Steve loves him.


Now

Bucky’s hovering by the door when Steve comes inside. He drops his jean jacket next to the coat rack Bucky’d hung up after the first couple weeks of living in the new house. Steve walks past Jack and Nat before he even realizes there’s others in the house. He blinks, visibly startling.

“Easy, kid,” Jack says. “We just wanna know how it went?”

“Where’s Brock?” Steve looks around, his guard up. He backs into a wall to make sure Brock can’t cage him in.

“Not here,” Bucky says.

Jack sighs, nodding. “He’s in a bit of a—time out.”

Steve balks. “This day is the weirdest day of my life.”

Natasha smiles. It’s cold and perfectly crafted for a specific purpose: intimidation. She swings her arms, gracefully moving over to the living room and falling into the couch. “Someone bring me a beer!”

Bucky immediately moves to the kitchen. Steve stands in the hall, staring at Jack. Jack offers a twitch of a smile. He’s got a deep crease between his brows, Steve’s pretty sure that’s because Jack learned how to scowl at an abnormally young age. He usually never stops.

“He pissed at Bucky?” Steve asks.

Jack shrugs. “He’s pissed at the world.”

“Can’t exactly say I feel bad for him.” Steve crosses his arms. His gaze darts to Bucky, watching him join Natasha in the living room. “We should join them.” He moves, but Jack grabs him by the wrist. Frightened, Steve grabs Jack’s fingers, whining and trying to pry the man off him. He feels like a sheep who got too close to a wolf. Regret floods him and he wildly looks over to the archway leading to where Bucky and Natasha are.

“Easy,” Jack says, letting go. “I just wanted to say I’m sorry.”

“For?” Steve rubs at his wrist, panting.

Jack stares at him blankly, almost like the reason is too obvious, but Steve’s got no damn idea. “For Brock. He’s not easy to get along with.”

“You do just fine,” Steve snaps.

Jack lets the comment roll right off his shoulders. He nods, rocking on his feet. “Wasn’t always easy. But I know he pushes you too hard. It’s just fear.”

Steve snorts. “Like a psycho serial killing rapist has anything to be afraid of me for.”

“You’re better than he is,” Jack says. “You know I wasn’t his first choice. He had it bad for Bucky.”

Steve’s jaw drops.

“Yeah,” Jack laughs, “high school crush and all.”

“They went to high school together?” Steve no longer wants to go into the living room. He doesn’t care much about Brock, but he definitely cares about Bucky, and any scrap of info he can get on Bucky is gold to him.

“They’ve known each other their whole lives.” Jack look sat Steve skeptically, sizing him up. “Buck didn’t tell you?”

Steve shakes his head. “He doesn’t tell me much, truthfully…”

Jack nods. “Well, don’t take Brock’s threats personally. He’s just pissed you got Bucky’s heart and he didn’t.”

“And you’re okay with this?” Steve asks when Jack starts walking away. “With knowing that Brock’s into Bucky?”

Jack smiles sadly, shrugging. “I don’t exactly get a chance to be happy, Steve. Brock’s the closest thing I’ll ever get. I’m fine with him using me for what he wants. I’m using him too.” He lets the words roll out easily, but Steve can feel the pain in each syllable. It hits him like tiny needles.

“Jack—” Steve wants to hug him. He honest to God wants to hug this man. “You deserve someone who really loves you.”

Jack snorts. “You think? I’m a serial killer too.”

“If I didn’t think serial killers deserved some happiness, then I wouldn’t be with Bucky.”

Jack pats Steve on the back. “Do some soul searching. Do you really think Bucky deserves that?”

Steve’s stunned. He watches Jack retreat into the living room. He takes a seat on the floor. They still need more damn furniture. They’ve got enough for two people, but having guests over makes Steve remember just how bare the house is.

But Steve doesn’t really care about the furniture right now. Jack’s words ring in his ears, going back and forth between his brain. Does Bucky deserve happiness? Anger flips Steve’s stomach. Of course Bucky deserves happiness! He’s a—

He’s a…

Steve shrinks back, colliding with the wall. He presses his palms to his face, sighing in anguish. He’s a killer. That’s what Bucky is. But does Steve—does Steve deserve happiness? He’s complacent in their little fucked up life. He gripes and moans about normalcy sure, but he never stops Bucky. Hell, he indulges in it all. He lets Bucky carve his fucking name into his body, tell him how he wants to fucking kill him and Steve gets off on it. Is it the excitement? The novelty of being with someone who takes pleasure in murder and yet they value Steve more than what they love most? Is it the thrill of dancing with death?

Steve’s selfish, he’s always known that. He thinks about what he wants and how he thinks the world should be. He doesn’t compromise. So he’s in love with a serial killer. Does that serial killer deserve to be happy, or does he have to be happy so Steve can keep indulging in himself?

Jesus, Jack just threw him through the ringer.

Steve grabs a bottle of wine from the fridge before finally making his way into the living room. He cocks a brow at Bucky and Nat when he realizes Nat’s braiding Bucky’s hair. She’s putting tiny little braids in. He looks like a brunet Viking all of the sudden. If Bucky’s known Brock all his life, then how long has Bucky known Nat? They’re perfectly comfortable with each other. How long have they known Jack? How did this whole…group…find each other?

“What happened?” Natasha asks, shattering Steve’s thoughts.

He gapes, his brain taking a moment to comprehend what she’d said. “Oh uh—s’nothing really. Cops wanted to know why I didn’t report it. I’m a suspect. And uh—um—well they’re gonna send a cop to watch us.” Bucky bristles. “Like to uh—to protect me.”

“You’re shitting me,” Bucky says. He swats Natasha’s hand away and jumps up. He paces the room like a hungry lion. His face is screwed up in a snarl, teeth barred, brow so tense that it casts shadows over his eyes.

Steve can’t breathe easy anymore.

Jack looks to Steve, a silent told you so. Steve slumps to the floor.

“M’sorry, Buck. I tried to tell her no.”

“Well you obviously didn’t do a good enough job!” Bucky pulls at his hair. The braids Natasha put in are coming undone. He looks wild. “Jesus, this would’ve been so much easier if we’d just killed you!”

“Bucky!” Nat snaps.

Bucky freezes. He scratches his arm and then he’s gone, running outside through the sliding door.

Steve can’t help but feel guilty, like the words Bucky said ring true. It would be easier for them if he was dead… A cop watching over them, a cop coming inside. They could open the fridge and find all the body parts. They could try to chat with Bucky in the garden and see a finger suddenly pop out of the dirt. It’s not safe, and Steve’s put a bullseye on them.

Worse, he’s a suspect. So of course they’re going to want to investigate him as much as possible. Sure, he’s got assurance that the cops don’t really think it’s him, but protocol is protocol…

“I’m sorry.” Steve wipes tears from his eyes. “I didn’t mean to…”

Natasha crawls over to Steve. She wraps her arms around him and Steve’s shocked to feel how warm she is. Her body’s soft and smooth. She’s not hard granite like Steve’s always thought. She’s flesh and blood and she’s comforting him, rubbing circles into his back and whispering how Bucky didn’t mean that, shh, it’s okay.

She’s more human than Bucky, and Steve finds himself so pissed off because of that. Why can Jack function like a person, why can Natasha seamlessly blend both worlds together. It’s not fair! It’s not fair that Bucky has to be like this and Steve has to endure it! Why couldn’t he be like everyone else?!

Jack walks on his knees over to Steve, putting a hand on his shoulder. He offers one of his token-Jack smiles—small, crooked and brief.

Never, never did Steve think it would be this way. He expected Bucky to be the one holding him and telling him how they’d get through this. He expected Bucky to be sympathetic, to prove how warm and soft his body is—not Natasha. He expected his God damn boyfriend to show that he fucking cares about Steve.

He got none of that.

So all that Steve feels, is bitter guilt at the back of his tongue, a led weight in his stomach, and stinging tears in his eyes.

“I don’t wanna stay here tonight,” he says.

“You can stay with me.” Natasha squeezes him.

“No. I mean—thank you—but I wanna stay with Sam. I want Sam.”

“Whose Sam?” Jack asks.

“His best friend,” Natasha replies. Steve can’t remember ever telling her about Sam, and yet Steve’s not the least bit surprised she knows. “Wanna use my phone to call him?”

Steve nods, taking her iPhone. Once again, why does she blend seamlessly into the world of regular people and the world of murder. How does she afford an iPhone? Why can’t Bucky have any of this? Why are they the ones broke and scrounging around for pennies? Does she have a job? The thoughts make Steve cry again, though not sad, just frustrated.

He doesn’t even have to say much and then Sam’s already promising to come scoop him up. An exchange of an address and then that’s it. Sam’s coming to the rescue, and Steve’s left feeling like his world is crumbling to pieces.

“We have to know though,” Natasha says, sitting back. “You’ll be back?”

Steve nods.

“You have to stay with Bucky, when the cops start watching the house.”

“I know that.” Steve’s fingers are going numb. He stares at them, flexing and watching the tendons dance beneath his skin. “I just need some time.”

“We’re counting on you, pretty boy.” Natasha caresses Steve’s cheek. Hands warm. It’s still such a surprise to Steve. “You hold all our lives in your hands.”

“Bucky isn’t—he’s not gonna kill me, right?” Steve wants to believe Bucky would never hurt him. He’s heard the words uttered from Bucky’s own lips, but the question still lingers.

Natasha shrugs. “He could, but I think he knows that’d be stupid. Killing you would alert the cops we know.”

Steve was searching for the he loves you, he’d never do that, answer. That wasn’t the response he wanted. “Oh.”

“We’ll stay with him tonight, he’s just scared.” Jack smooths Steve’s hair out. Since when did these two become people Steve could trust? It was supposed to be Bucky…

“And you?” Steve looks between them. “Will you kill me?”

“No,” Jack says. “You’re one of us, Steve.”

“I don’t kill people.”

Jack snorts. “That has nothing to do with it. You’re family, even if you don’t think you are.”

Natasha smiles, nodding. “I say a lot of shit to scare you, but don’t think I really mean it. Sometimes it’s just my way of trying to figure you out. You’re not an easy one to read.”

“Oh, sorry.”

Natasha laughs. “Don’t be, that’s a good thing!”

“Oh.”

Steve’s never felt his world crumble so quickly around him. He always thought he knew one thing was certain: Bucky. He always, always thought that Bucky would be there for him, have his back and tell him how they’d always be together if Steve wanted it.

All Steve knows now is that he doesn’t want to come back to this house and be alone with Bucky…


Steve’s playing with the hem of his sleep shirt. He’s curled up on the bed, chin on his knee and staring out the window. Sam’s got a good view of the port. Some of the boats are twinkling with lights. Steve wishes he could have a boat. It’d be nice to get out on the water and just get away from it all. It’d be a good escape…

Sam comes into the room, holding three movies. “Okay! So I’ve got Mad Max: Fury Road, Bad Boys, or we could watch your favorite?” He drops the two mentioned movies, holding out The Breakfast Club to Steve. He’s smiling large, shoulders going up inch by inch. He’s almost vibrating out of his damn skin.

Steve just sighs. “Sure.”

“Oh c’mon! You’ve still got a thing for Emilio Estevez right?!”

Steve shrugs.

Sam’s brow pinches together. He puts the movie down, sits on the bed and wraps an arm around Steve. “Hey,” he presses his head to Steve’s, “it’s gonna be okay. Couples fight.”

“We don’t.” Steve doesn’t move. He looks at the movie cover, remembering the days when he and Sam used to dress up like some of the characters and dance around the house. They’d be singing don’t you forget about me, trying to balance on Sam’s mom’s stair railing. Steve broke his arm doing that when they were sixteen.

“Dude.” Sam gives Steve a little shake. Not rough, just enough to make Steve pay attention. “All couples fight. And if they don’t, maybe there’s somethin’ wrong with’at.”

“I don’t get it.”

“Fighting sometimes can mean you’re comfortable showing each other how you really feel, or that you’re not gonna give up on something you’re passionate about.”

And this is why living a lie hurts. Sam has no idea that it wasn’t really a fight. Bucky said it’d be easier if Steve had died. That’s not a fight. That’s just a cold slap in the face, and it’s left Steve reeling.

“We can watch Breakfast Club,” Steve picks up the DVD, “but if you start dancin’ and singin’ I’m outta here.”

Sam grabs the movie, laughing. “Oh c’mon! Don’t you—” he starts air guitaring, “da na na na na! Forget about me! Don’t, don’t, don’t don’t!”

“Oh my God.” Steve falls onto his face, laughing. He watches Sam dance around the room, air guitar and silly swiveling hips. It’s just like the old days. Then they’d stay up late talking about what clothes Steve could have of Sam’s (since Sam was the one who helped him start dressing like a boy) and Steve would vent about how much he hated his dad. Those were the days. Steve thought they were so hard. Now he’s got a serial killing boyfriend, bills to pay, cops to deal with and all his childhood problems still haven’t gone away. His father’s still a drunk. His mother’s still with him…

“Okay, Breakfast Club it is.” Sam pops the DVD in and turns back to jump on the bed. He bumps Steve in the ribs, a cheeky grin on his face. “You’ll work it out. I know it.”

Steve sucks in his lips, watching the title credits. He wants to believe that. He also wants to spill everything to Sam. It’d be so much easier. Though, knowing Sam, he’d kidnap Steve, put him on the first plane back to Brooklyn and make sure Bucky’s ass is in jail. Sam’s good like that. Steve, clearly, isn’t.

They fall asleep about fifteen minutes into the movie. Just like when they were kids.


“You fucked up.” Natasha bangs her hands on the table. It jars Bucky. He looks up, watching the way her jaw clenches and relaxes. Muscles are so fascinating… They can be soft or rigid, pliant or nigh-impossible to bend. Bucky knows… He’s played with all kinds of muscles at all kinds of stages of after-death.

“Barnes!” She smacks her hand on the table again. “Christ you’re an idiot, you know that?!”

Bucky blinks, still watching her muscles. Skin is too soft, it bends, sways and flicks around—but muscle? Muscle is solid. He sits back, finally looking away. It’s not that he doesn’t want to talk to her. It’s just—he can’t. He knows what happened. He knows Steve’s gone…

God, the pain in his chest. Someone’s in there with an icepick and they’re stabbing his ribs over and over, trying to break through. He clutches his chest, taking in deep, even breaths.

“Bucky.” Natasha sits down, reaching over to grab Bucky’s wrist. She gives an encouraging little squeeze, scooting her chair closer. “I know this is new to you, I know you’re scared, but it’s now more important than ever that you reign it in. You crossed a line last night. You know that, right?”

Bucky swallows, looking away. His fingers are burning. He needs them wrapped around something, the dirt out back, a cool knife, he doesn’t care. He just needs them wrapped around something or he’s going to start strangling Natasha. He flicks his brows, thinking to himself, could he? Strangle Natasha? She’s so strong, she moves like water and is just about as hard to hold in his hands. She slips right through.

God, his chest hurts. Steve’s gone. And he’s not just out at his booth, but he’s actually gone. Bucky finally, finally pushed too hard. It’s not that he wants Steve gone. No. Never. He just got so scared of waiting for the day Steve woke up and realized how much better he’d be without Bucky. Though, nothing makes this any easier when Bucky still can hear Steve inside his mind, rattling around like a loose corkscrew: you do it on purpose.

Yes, exactly. Bucky’s lived his whole life watching people leave him. If his own family could abandon him, what makes Steve any different? Bucky doesn’t want this. He doesn’t want to lose Steve. But he doesn’t want to fix this either if it’s for the sake of the group. He wants to fix it for him and Steve—no one else.

“Are you even listening to me?” Natasha smacks Bucky across the face. It stings, but it’s not even close to what she’s actually capable of. He looks at her, anger burning behind his pupils. “There you are. It drives people crazy when you don’t listen to them.”

Bucky just shrugs.

“You need to apologize to Steve.”

“He’s gone.” Bucky rests his chin on his arms.

“He’s at a friend’s house, he didn’t break up with you.”

Bucky’s eyes close. He means for them to just blink, but it becomes so hard to open them again. He furrows his brow, trying to pull his eyelids back up, but they just won’t budge. Sleep would be nice. He’s always so Goddamned tired. Sleeping alone was hard last night. He’d forgotten how hard it is when he can’t push his face into someone’s side and listen to their breathing. Steve snores. It’s this tiny, tiny little garble in the back of his throat, but it’s still a snore. Bucky’s gotten so used to that sound. Some people use fans for noise, Bucky uses Steve, and now that doesn’t seem like it’ll happen again any time soon. He’d blown it. Here was finally the nail that did his coffin in.

Bucky hadn’t meant it, not really. He’d been scared. The cops have never gotten this close to them before, and now there’d be one right outside his door? He’s damn terrified of that. All it takes is one wrong word or something strange and all Bucky is is strange. But after the words came out, after Bucky saw the look on Steve’s face… there wasn’t much else Bucky could do but run.

Shame fills him up, it’s a slick feeling, like he hasn’t showered in days. His skin is heavy. Muscles are finicky things, soft or hard. Bucky’s are hard and unwilling to budge. He still hasn’t even opened his eyes.

“Since you’re not in a talking mood,” Natasha says, “let me be the one to do the talking. Jack and I worked our asses off last night to calm him down. You hurt him, and I mean really hurt him. That pretty little face holds our whole fuckin’ lives in his hands and you just had to tell him it’d be better if he was dead?!”

“I wasn’t wrong.” Bucky’s voice is foreign to him. He used to go weeks without speaking. Most people know the sound of their voice. Not Bucky. Each time, it’s like getting introduced to someone he’s only met as a child. They know him, but he doesn’t know them. Same thing. “It would’ve been easier.”

“That doesn’t mean you had to say it!” Natasha growls, flinging herself out of the chair. She huffs, crossing her arms. “Look, this is your mess. You’re the only thing that stands between us and prison because your little boyfriend’s never stopped being afraid of you. You realize if we go to prison, we’ll be killed too, right? All of us!”

Bucky doesn’t even react. Does she think those words hurt him? The truth can’t hurt Bucky. Steve’s still terrified. It doesn’t matter what Bucky does, it doesn’t matter what he says or the promises he tries to keep. In the end, none of it matters. Bucky is still a murderer and Steve is still a man he’d ruined. He broke Steve in the most unnoticeable way ever, a way that Steve probably won’t even realize that it happened.

He made Steve love him. It wasn’t on purpose, but it happened. Bucky selfishly stowed Steve away and in doing so, he sealed Steve’s fate. Anyone’s bound to fall in love with someone when they feel desperately alone and here’s one person offering some kind of comfort. But his love has never been false. Every day, he found himself more in love with Steve’s mind, his imagination, his goals and ideas about life, his voice, his soft little laugh. Bucky fell in love with those hips, those long lashes and those kiss-bitten lips. He fell in love with the rough callouses on Steve’s fingers, the slight curve of a broken nose that didn’t heal quite right. He fell in love with it all. Right down to the night Steve stripped naked in front of him and cried because he couldn’t come up with a way to explain his body to Bucky.

He actually thought Bucky would care what was between his legs. God, it’s unfathomable to think about. Bucky had never cared. He was honestly so caught up in Steve actually wanting him to see him naked, wanting Bucky to touch him. Bucky hadn’t touched a person in so long without meaning to cause pain… That moment, that…single…moment. Bucky had cried. Of course, it freaked Steve out, he automatically assumed he was wrong, he blamed himself and even tried to apologize. Bucky had never kissed someone before. He’ll never tell Steve that… Bucky shared his first kiss with Steve, his first groping session, his first blowjob, his first everything with Steve. Bucky didn’t know sexuality could even be a thing for him until he met Steve. He’d found something so good in Steve…so fucking pure and honest

And now he’s lost it, because that’s what happens to Bucky.

People leave him. They always, always have. But how can Bucky blame them? It’s never their fault. It’s his. He’s always been wrong. He started wetting the bed when he was eight. A few accidents are nothing special but when you’re twelve and still doing it? That’s when people start looking at you funny… That’s when your mom decides to take your siblings in the middle of the night and leave you and your dad… That’s when your dad leaves you on Christmas morning saying he’s getting milk for the pancakes. That’s when social services picks you up three weeks later because your landlord realized everyone jumped ship and left a kid who still wets the damn bed… Sure, his parents tried to make amends years later, but by then, Bucky was in foster care with a family that actually seemed to care for him, and Brock was the first person who didn’t look at him like an animal and saw a brother. Bucky’s adoptive parents never adopted Brock, but they kept him till he aged out of foster care. Brock’s the closest thing to a sibling Bucky’s ever had… Which made it all the more complicated when Brock tried to kiss him when they were seventeen.

“BUCKY!”

“I don’t wanna talk right now, Nat.” Reality hits Bucky like a tidal wave. Memories are easier. He’s already dealt with the pain, it’s all numb now. He can just…exist in the past. The present hurts. It slides needle under his fingernails and just presses and presses and presses!

Natasha throws her hands up in the air. She grabs a glass, smashing it next to Bucky’s feet. “I swear to God, James Buchanan Barnes, if you don’t fix this, I will personally flay that boy’s skin and wear it for you.”

“You’re worse than me you know.” Bucky leans up, looking on with eyes that just want to close and stay shut forever. “I don’t lie to him, not about how I feel. You do.”

Natasha bites the inside of her cheek. “I never wanted your kicked little puppy. You did. Now he’s shit the bed and you need to fuckin’ clean it up. Clean it, or we all die!” She throws another glass. It shatters across the room.

Bucky sits there, listening to her move through the house until she slams the door shut. He leans back, looking at the glass. He wants to shove someone’s face into it. Glass is pretty, it sparkles in the light and even the smallest shards can be deadly. Dragging someone through it, pushing their body down onto a floor full of broken glass… Bucky’s cock is hardening just thinking about it. He shifts in the chair, grabbing his pants to adjust. “Okay, Barnes, human up.”

Bucky isn’t doing it for himself though. And fuck Natasha and her threats. He’ll rip her head off if she so much as touches Steve the wrong way.

He’s doing this to save Steve. They’re too deep into this game, and Natasha loves playing cat and mouse. Earning Steve’s trust? That’s just her warming up…


After an hour of just watching Bucky sit in the truck outside Sam’s, Steve finally gives in and gets up to talk to him. Sam of course takes a seat right next to the front window just in case.

Bucky’s fiddling with the keys. They clack together in an obnoxious rhythm that sounds more like something’s stuck in the garbage disposal than keys resting in an ignition.

“What?” Steve asks.

Bucky tenses, clenching his jaw.

Steve leans against the truck, staring at Bucky. “You could’ve knocked.”

“I—” he shrugs, “I didn’t know what to say.”

“Have ya figured that out yet?” Steve crosses his arms, glaring. If Bucky would just apologize, then maybe this could be okay. Steve’s heard his worthless apologies before, he knows how insincere Bucky can be, but right now? Steve would give anything to hear those words, even if they’re a little lie.

“Cop’s gonna be at the house soon. You’ve gotta be there.”

“I do? Huh, how ‘bout that.”

Bucky grabs the wheel, knuckles white. “Don’t do this.”

“Don’t do what, Bucky?”

“Just get in the damn car, Steve!”

Steve takes a step back, shaking his head. “I don’t want to.”

Bucky whines, his whole body is shaking. He drops his head against the steering wheel, then he’s intentionally smacking it—over and over.

“Hey!” Steve rushes forward. “Hey, stop it! Bucky—Bucky stop!” He can’t get a good grip on Bucky through the window, so he puts his arm in the way. Bucky smacks against it a few times before he gives up, sobbing.

“S-Steve!”

Steve’s heart melts, heated wax slipping down glass. He pulls Bucky into an awkward hug, cupping his monster’s head. His monster. There’s pride in that thought. Of all the people Bucky could’ve spared, he spared Steve. He even spared others because of Steve. That kind of power… Yes, Steve feels pride in it.

“I can’t protect you if you’re not with me.”

Steve pulls away. “I’m fine.”

Bucky shakes his head. “Please get in the car, Steve.”

“I don’t wanna go anywhere with you. I’m staying here for awhile.” Why’s it so hard for Bucky to just admit he did something wrong? Steve isn’t helping the situation, he’s cracking, letting Bucky think he’s got him hooked and then he’s pulling back. Bucky’s barely holding on as it is. But damn him! Why should Steve feel like the monster here when it’s Bucky who said such hurtful things! “I’m going back inside.”

“I love you,” Bucky whispers.

Steve pauses, looking over his shoulder. “What?”

“I love you,” Bucky drops his head back, peering at Steve through greasy strands of hair. “Obsessed, captivated, awe-struck, consumed. I love you. I couldn’t sleep last night. I wanted—I wanted to make it better but I just don’t know how.”

Steve sighs, hands on his hips. He looks over at the house, then back at Bucky again. “You start by being sorry—and I mean really sorry.”

“I am.” Bucky nods for emphasis.

“And you make it up to me, you prove that you’re sorry. Sayin’ it’s not good enough.”

“How?”

“We talk. We sit down, and we finally learn a thing or two about each other. Question for question. Bottle of wine and a blanket. Just you n’ me.”

“What kind of questions?”

“Do you wanna prove to me you’re sorry or not?”

Bucky whimpers, swallowing. He really does look like shit. His hair’s stringy and shiny, his eyes are red. Steve assumes he’s been crying. Good, honestly. Steve wouldn’t want to go back to a man who didn’t really care. But, and Steve’s heart warms thinking about it, Bucky really does care. That’s the world’s biggest fuck you to Steve. Bucky, a murderer, really does care about Steve. There’s genuine adoration and Steve can feel it. And Steve adores Bucky… Even if it’s hard sometimes.

He takes a shaky breath. Is this what his mom feels? Is this why she stays with a man who isn’t good enough for her? Steve’s dad beats her every now and then… he’s a deadbeat and a drunk. The apple really doesn’t fall far from the tree. Steve’s fate was this kind of man, he supposes. Deadbeats… People who aren’t healthy to be with and yet here Steve is, making excuses. Jesus, the irony hits him like a wall of brick. He splatters against the rough realization of it all. He’s just like his mother.

“Bucky?” Steve steps forward, reaching into the car. Bucky takes Steve’s hand, tracing his fingernails. “You really love me?”

Bucky nods, still tracing.

“What are you protecting me from?”

Bucky grimaces. “From lies.”

Steve chews the inside of his cheek, contemplating. Bucky may as well be speaking in riddles. “Fine, lemme go get my stuff.” He turns, but not before seeing relief flood Bucky’s features. His skin glows from it, radiating like a setting sun.

Steve gets his things, says his thanks to Sam and hugs him, long and tight. He departs feeling accomplished, at least with one thing. Sam’s still his best friend.

The ride home is silent, but Steve can’t stop smiling, staring out his window.

Bucky’s holding his hand, and he absolutely refuses to let go…

 

 

Chapter Text

Then

Steve’s sitting outside, lounging in the summer sun. He’s got his head tilted, eyes fixated on Bucky. Bucky’s sewing skin together. It’s the first time Steve’s ever looked at those hands, really looked . They’re nubile and long. The patience Bucky shows while he stitches is astounding. Steve looks up at the sun, letting its intensity burn his retinas before looking away. He watches Bucky again. They don’t speak. The only conversation is far below them in the ocean as it mumbles to the hillside. Steve’s been spirited away to a shack on a hill next to the ocean with a man who has nubile hands.

Somehow, Steve’s not so angry about that anymore.


Now

“Question for question,” Steve says, sitting down. “You ignore me and I leave.”

Bucky opens his mouth. He wants to protest, it’s evident in his tight pupils. He looks away, shoulders slumped.

“Get under the blanket with me,” Steve says.

Bucky does. He curls into Steve’s arms and Steve wraps the blanket around them both. Steve wishes they had a fireplace. There’s room for one. They could sacrifice some of the wall between the large windows and get a cozy fireplace. They’d need money though… Steve misses money.

“You wanna go first or me?” Steve wants to kiss Bucky’s forehead. There’s some kind of gravitational pull around Bucky. He demands attention even when he doesn’t seek it. For a man who hates people, his aura seems to soak it all in. He’s mesmerizing.

“You,” Bucky whispers. He doesn’t look at Steve, just stays nestled in Steve’s arms. He’s distantly swirling a finger around on Steve’s chest, carefully avoiding any spot that would make the gesture more than harmless.

“Tell me about your parents?”

“Which ones?”

Steve blinks. “You have more than two?”

Bucky sighs. “I was given up for adoption. My bio parents didn’t want me.”

“Oh.” Steve looks away, wincing. “I’m sorry.”

“I’m not. Their guilt’s how I’ve supported myself for the most part. They send me money.”

Steve nods, so that’s how they got a bit of money for the down payment on the house. “What happened?”

“I scared them. Kind of a common theme, I guess. I had trouble as a kid. Lots of nightmares. I wet the bed.”

Steve bites his lip. He imagines a tiny Bucky, fearful with shimmering tears in his eyes, so completely mortified from the wetness in the blankets and no one there to sooth the ache. Steve hates it. The idea that Bucky’s family didn’t work with him enrages Steve. This is their son ! You don’t just give someone away because they’re a little broken. That should never be how the world works.

“I didn’t really learn social skills. I was prone to violence and I asked some invasive questions apparently. I dunno. I grabbed my mom’s tits when I was like—ten. I don’t even know why anymore, but I apparently disgusted her. They kept me locked in my room more than they tried to see me. They wouldn’t let me near my sister.”

“You’ve got a sister?”

“More than one. Rebecca was my favorite though. They never let me play with her.” Bucky looks away, eyes hazing over, and lips pushing together. Steve nuzzles against Bucky’s head, sighing. “But you’ve asked more than one question.”

Steve stays silent.

“Are you really happy with me?”

Steve bites his bottom lip. The answer is complicated. In its simplest form, yes he is. But it’s not that simple. There’s waves and waves of complication that pull Steve under tidal waves of confusion, hesitation and his own goals in life. He’s happy with the idea of Bucky—but not the practicality. He’s happy that he’s with someone who accepts him, but acceptance isn’t enough. A good person is generally what people look for in companions and Bucky’s not really a good person. In fact, he’s evil. Pure evil. But Steve’s learned that even evil can show compassion. The devil is after all—an angel.

“Mostly,” Steve says, because it’s mostly the truth. “Tell me about your adoptive family?”

Bucky nods, swallowing. “They’re nice people. They worked with me through a lot of stuff. Got me to stop wettin’ the bed all the time. Momma would hold me during storms on the front porch and tell me I’m just like lighting.”

“Oh yeah?”

Bucky smiles. He gets this misty glint in his eyes, like he’s not even present anymore. Steve hopes the memory is cherished. He wants Bucky to have a cherished life. But he also wants to know what happened to make him like this. Steve assumes it was Bucky’s biological family, but he’d been rehabilitated with the adoptive family? So what happened?

“Yeah. I think she meant I was a little spitfire and full of energy. I love her.” He nods, licking his lips. “Do you ever wanna go back to New York?”

Steve shakes his head. “Not really. That dream’s long gone now.”

“Why?”

Steve knows Bucky’s already used his question, but Steve got a few extras at the start, so he lets it slide. “Because my life’s changed. I’m settled and I’ve got a lot of friends up here. I could always go back to school ‘round here. No biggie.”

“Do you wanna go back to school?”

Steve scrunches up his nose. “Not right now. Got no money.” He smiles, untangling himself from Bucky partially to look at him better. “When did you first kill someone?”

Bucky fidgets in Steve’s grip, chewing his lips. “It was an accident.” Bucky squeezes his fingers around Steve’s forearm. Steve looks down. Sometimes he forgets how delicate Bucky’s hands are. They could be an artist’s hands. Maybe they are artist hands. Bucky’s art is death. His paint is blood. He sculpts with human form in the most literal sense. Once Steve saw those fingers, that’s when he started to feel the trickle of love pour into his heart. It wasn’t fast, it was a long, slow process but when it finally started, it tumbled down into Steve. Bucky has artist hands.

“Me n’ Brock were playin’ in some woods behind the house. My adoptive family had a lot of land. Could go all the way back near these train tracks. We used to play pretend, like we was gonna tie each other up on the tracks. No trains ever used them anymore, so we knew it was safe. This guy popped out. I think he was drunk.” Bucky swallows roughly, wiping at his eyes. “He was pawing at me and I was just a kid. He was mumblin’ ‘bout how he wanted to suck me and I didn’t know what was happenin’.”

Steve goes very, very , still.

“Brock pushed him away. He didn’t touch me or nothin’—I mean, he tried but—he didn’t get very far. Brock pushed him onto the tracks and bashed his head in with a rock. I’d never seen him so angry. He was tremblin’ and cryin’. I just—stood there,” Bucky blinks tears from his eyes, “then I picked up the rock too, and I brought it down. The guy was already dead but, but I wanted Brock to know he wasn’t lower than me or somethin’. I got angrier the more I thought about it. We tore his clothes off, searchin’ for who he was but couldn’t find shit.

“I went back a few days later and—I cut him open. I was just curious. We had a dead body and no one knew. It felt intoxicating to have this little secret that only me and Brock knew. We went back a few times and played with pieces of ‘im till he started to really smell. Then we just left ‘im. By the time someone found ‘im, he was mostly decomposed and it got ruled as an animal attack. We kept our private little secret forever. Till now.” Bucky nods, clenching his jaw.

“Thank you,” Steve whispers.

“For?”

Steve pulls Bucky into him, cupping the back of Bucky’s greasy head. He weaves his fingers into Bucky’s hair and scratches at the scalp. “For being honest with me.”

“You asked.”

“Got another question for me? I only have one left for you.”

Bucky shrugs. “Nah, go for it.”

“How’d you lose your arm?”

Bucky bites his bottom lip so hard he breaks the skin. He sits up, jerking to the other side of the sofa. He’s a cornered animal and it’s so terrifying to see the abrupt change in his behavior. He’s opening up one moment, and then he’s clamoring shut in another.

“B-Bucky—”

Don’t touch me!”

Steve tries his best to meld into the other side of the sofa. He wraps his arms around his middle, face wincing. “M’sorry.”

Bucky’s eyes are closed. He’s grinding his teeth and for a moment it looks like he’s going to fight. But then he says, “It’s okay. I just—I just needed…” He sits up, covering his face with his hand.

“Me n’ Brock started killin’ people in high school. We liked the secrecy. How it bonded us? And the power? I just—it’s a drug, Steve. You need more, gotta get more creative, do more. It consumed us.”

Steve nods. He’s read that murder is an addiction like a cigarette is.

“We were almost finished when he told me he loved me,” Bucky’s voice is so soft that he doesn’t sound like a man, more like a boy, “and I said I loved him too because I do—as my brother.”

Steve sucks back a gasp. So this is the story then… He’d wondered how much Jack knew. He’d wonder if he’d ever get to know, but now here it is. Steve can’t deny the frenzy in his heart. His whole body is alive with morbid curiosity.

“He got upset. Ravin’ and shit. The people were dead and we were supposed to get goin’ and onto cleanup. But then he started puttin’ gasoline all around. I asked if he was gonna burn the place instead. I didn’t like the idea cause ya know—attention.”

“Of course.” Steve smiles.

Bucky freezes and then his eyes widen when he finally works out that Steve was making a joke. “Oh—yeah—well anyway. After he poured the gas out, he set the place on fire with us inside. He tried to hold me down, sayin’ if he couldn’t have me that he’d rather us both die then and there. We fought, threw knives and all sorts of shit at each other. Every time I tried to get out, he’d get in my way. He was bigger back then. Still better in a fight than me, even now. So a beam falls and my arm gets lodged under it.” Bucky takes in a long, deep breath. “Instead of just lettin’ us die, Brock tries to get me out, apologizin’. The beam’s too heavy so he just—cuts the arm off. Didn’t even warn me. When we got out, I finally looked at his face. He apparently had to lean into the fire to cut my arm off. It wasn’t a quick slice and we were done.

“He hacked at it for awhile. Melted most his damn face off for me. We knew the people we’d killed. We spun a story and the world believed us. Hero foster sibling saves little bro was better than murder duo who botched up and nearly killed each other.”

“Oh.”

“So that’s why it’s even more important the cops don’t know about us, Steve.” Bucky looks up, tears streaming. “Because they knew us once. It took us years to get back to where we are. We found Jack and Nat along the way and we’ve worked hard to keep our secret just that—secret.”

Gravity doesn’t work the way you want it to when your world’s been turned upside down. Steve’s stomach lurches in his stomach and the room sizzles. Brock Rumlow tried to kill Bucky, but then he tried to save Bucky—and in saving him, he almost killed himself. He doomed himself to a horrible face and Bucky to a life with a single arm. Brock is a monster, true as true could be, but even monsters have honor.

And Brock’s honor is kept inside Bucky Barnes.

Steve’s stomach goes cold. That honor is what makes Brock Rumlow all the more dangerous.


Then

Steve’s lying in the sun, soaking up the rays that cradle his face. He’s listening to the ocean waves below, eyes closed. He nods in and out of consciousness, floating between sleep and awareness. When he hears movement, he opens one sleepy eye, watching. Bucky’s got a deer. It’s dead. Steve bites his lip, brow pulling together. He doesn’t like seeing the poor thing’s tongue slipping out of its mouth or those large, lifeless eyes.

“Why?” Steve asks.

“So we can eat.” The words are simple. Bucky begins gutting the creature, pulling its hide away with careful, knowledgeable hands. Steve’s transfixed. He can’t stop staring at the way Bucky pulls the organs out. His face is blank, like he’s sifting through bills and not a dead animal. He moves slowly, careful not to injure anything, despite the process itself for removal of organs.

“It’s sad.”

“Coyotes eat smaller animals. Frogs eat insects. Wolves hunt. Bears, lions, tigers, lizards. What makes us any different?”

Steve’s astounded. He didn’t expect to find himself fighting over the philosophy of survival and “the circle of life” but here he is anyway. “You don’t have to kill people for food.”

Bucky looks over, smiling. It’s a real smile—Steve’s never seen one like this before. It’s wide, spread across Bucky’s face and it actually pulls color into those high cheeks. The bags under his eyes look less puffy and Steve gasps. There’s a human under all that—whatever it is. Steve hasn’t known Bucky for long. He’s not been wanting to get to know him really, but it’s hard when Bucky’s the only one out here for Steve to talk to.

“We don’t have to do a lot of things, Steve. Don’t mean we listen. S’all part of choice. You either do, or you don’t. I choose to do. You choose to don’t. S’fine by me.”

Steve licks his lips. He doesn’t want to lose his privileges of being outside. He had to beg so hard to let Bucky let him out here. But there’s still a conversation going, and Steve’s on the other end of it. He sucks in a breath, holding it in his lungs long enough to feel the pressure inside. “Why do you choose to do ?”

Bucky wipes sweat and hair out of his eyes. He smears blood onto his forehead. He finishes up rolling the hide away enough to get at the meat. He’s strong for a guy with one arm. He hauls the dead deer up and jabs it onto one of the hooks hanging off the house.

“Why do you choose to don’t?” he asks.

“Because killing’s wrong.” Steve says it so fast. It’s confidence. Of course killing is wrong. It’s against God, it’s against man. It’s wrong, wrong, wrong!

Bucky doesn’t smile this time. He looks at Steve with eyes Steve’s grown far too used to seeing—dark and sad. “Is it?” He goes back to carving meat off the deer. “Guess you don’t want any dinner tonight.”

Out of stubbornness, Steve does not eat that night. His stomach grows loudly when the delectable smells of deer chili waft into the bedroom. He stares at the carcass out the window, wondering what makes something right, or wrong. Bucky’s so certain in his convictions.

Steve’s beginning to doubt his.


Now

Steve’s about done cleaning up the kitchen when he hears the doorbell. Bucky’s in the living room, most likely weighing his chances at fleeing the scene or digging his own grave for the duration of the police visit.

Steve swings out of the kitchen, looking at Bucky. Bucky’s got a blanket wrapped around his shoulders and two days’ worth of an unshaven face. He does look like a serial killer. The irony is most people would pass Bucky just thinking he looked like one, not that he actually is one. Steve finds the idea comical.

He walks to the front of the house, pulling the door open to greet the cop. The cop is slightly chubby, blond and has a sweet face. He’s cute, actually.

“Hello!” the cop greets, tipping his hat. “I’m Teddy Atlman. I’ll uh—looks like we’ll be seein’ a lot of each other, huh?” He laughs. Steve notes how he seems a little uncomfortable. He fidgets a bit too much with his fingers and sways a lot on his feet.

“You new to the force?” Steve asks, smiling.

Teddy takes his hat off. “That obvious, huh?”

Steve nods.

“Damn. Yeah.” Teddy’s eyes go wide and then he’s stuffing his hat over his head and waving his hands in front of his body. “Oh! But that doesn’t mean I won’t do a good job! I’m trained for this! I’ll be vigilant and always here if you need me.”

“Because some green boy’s gonna protect us against the big bad killers.” Bucky slinks up next to Steve, blanket still wrapped round his body. He kisses Steve on the cheek. It’s rough and itchy from his stubble, but Steve leans into it nonetheless. He can’t help it, really. For all Bucky’s faults, Steve’s in love. He’d been falling in love since the day Bucky started showing him this world. He just didn’t realize it till it was far too late and Steve was far too smitten to ever turn back. Sometimes Steve regrets it. He won’t lie, but Bucky means more to him than most. Steve’s not one to give up on someone just because they’re not perfect. He’s not perfect either. He’s been struggling all his life with the concept of perfection. It’s easier to just accept that nothing is perfect—the idea of perfection is just a goal to strive for, not one to actually obtain.

Teddy looks Bucky over, swallowing roughly. Steve can only imagine what this guy’s thinking. Bucky’s dirty, rough around the edges and his aura isn’t exactly welcoming. His kiss is probably the only thing humanizing in Teddy’s opinion. Steve sighs, wondering how long they’ll stand in awkward silence before someone caves.

Bucky blinks slowly. He’s not going to. So it’s up to Steve.

“Officer Altman, this is Bucky—my boyfriend.”

“Please, call me Teddy.”

Steve nods.

Teddy reaches his hand out to Bucky, but Bucky pointedly steps away, sneering. Teddy pulls his hand up, clearing his throat.

“Sorry,” Steve says, “he’s nervous around people.”

“Oh.” Teddy’s eyes brighten. He’s got cute eyes, big and round, like his face. “My boyfriend’s like that too. He’s terrified of people and crowds.”

Steve’s brows shoot up. “You have a boyfriend?”

Teddy smiles, proud. “Yeah! His name’s Billy.”

Steve’s guard melts just a bit. They sent a gay cop… Steve isn’t sure if that was intentional or not. Well, gay . The guy could be bi, pan, ect. Sometimes it’s just easier to think in simplicity. Steve’s not exactly gay, but he is gay at the same time. It’s just easier to explain, and honestly, it doesn’t really matter to him. His gender identity is a lot more important than his sexual one—at least to him.

“Come in.” Steve moves out of the doorway, ushering in Teddy.

“Shoes off?” Teddy asks.

Bucky grunts, rolling his eyes. Steve side eyes him before nodding at Teddy. The cop slips off his shiny black shoes and pads into the house, following Steve and Bucky.

“So this is pretty much it. It’s small, but home. Outback we’ve got a greenhouse that Bucky’s setting up, but it’s not quite done yet. Bucky’s out there a lot.”

“You like gardening?” Teddy asks.

Bucky blinks a few times before huffing. “Obviously.”

Teddy shrinks back, wincing. Steve feels guilty. It’s not Teddy’s fault he’s been stationed here, and it’s not Teddy’s fault Steve messed up. This is all Steve’s fault. If he’d just kept his trap shut, they wouldn’t be in this mess. So Steve works extra hard to make sure the cop feels welcomed, at least by one of them.

“Can I get you anything to eat or drink?” Steve walks into the kitchen, cop and Bucky in tow. “We’ve got water, orange juice, milk—”

“I’ve got coffee in the car.” Teddy sways on his feet, looking around. “S’nice place.”

Steve rolls his eyes. “You’re being kind. It’s dated, we know. But it’s all we could afford.”

“Either of you in school?” Teddy asks.

Bucky clenches his jaw. Steve shakes his head.

“Dropped out,” Steve says.

Teddy’s bright face falters for the first time. He nods, looking down at the dated countertops. Steve at least wants to paint this room. If it’d be a nice blue instead of the basic cream, that could at least give it a bit  of an edge in terms of modern living. Steve still longs for the quartz counters in the cottage. They could’ve had that. His heart squeezes. He looks over at Bucky, anger bubbling up. It burns in the back of his throat and he swallows roughly. He shouldn’t be angry at Bucky. The decision was made and the house was bought. Steve will never stop thinking about that cottage though. He’d been so close.

“So, just a quick little tour and I’ll be outta yer hair, huh?” Teddy laughs, still swaying on his feet.

“Sure thing!”

Steve takes Teddy through the house. Teddy checks the locks on all the windows and doors. Bucky huffs and rolls his eyes for the entire duration of Teddy’s visit. Steve understands this is pointless. Bucky’s the murderer. The very person Teddy is trying to keep out lives here already. It’s ironic, Teddy standing right before a monster and not even seeing it. Part of Steve wishes he could. Steve’s not really sure what he’d do without Bucky at this point. Go back to college? Move? He’s not sure. Maybe he’d just wallow in this house and visit Bucky as much as possible. Could they even have conjugal visits? Steve shakes his head. No, they’d have to get married first. Marrying Bucky before him going off to prison would look rather suspicious. No, if Bucky goes down, Steve does too. Sure, the guilt would end, but the punishment would just begin. Steve’s not sure he’s selfless enough for that. He’s so selfish when it comes to Bucky. Judgement clouded, views narrowed. He just wants Bucky. Is it so wrong? Probably, but it’s how Steve feels.


Steve’s at his booth. The weather’s been so cold that Angie went out and bought a space heater and an extension cord for when Steve sits out here. He’s huddled up next to it, trying to sketch out a cottage curtained by lavender petals and ferns. He can’t get anything to work. His fingers are too numb.

“Hey.”

Steve looks up. Jack and Natasha are together, both huddled up in their coats. Natasha offers out a coffee to Steve. He takes it, smiling. “Thank you.”

“Don’t mention it.” Natasha leans over, tilting her head to see what Steve’s been working on. “That’s cute.”

“It sucks.”

“I said it’s cute, Steve. Stop bein’ so hard on yourself.” Natasha comes around the booth, looking at Steve’s wares. She trails her delicate fingers along the corners of canvas and print alike. “How’s business?”

“Angie tells me it’ll get better when the weather’s warmer.”

“She’s probably right.”

Steve nods. “Yeah.”

Jack just stands there, watching silently. Steve’s accustomed now to Jack’s looming presence. It’s not menacing, it’s not even remotely bothering. It’s like a tree at night by the window. The shadows scared him once, but not anymore.

“How’s the pig doing?”

“The what?”

“The cop at your house,” Natasha explains, “think it’s safe for us to come around?”

Steve sighs. He rubs at his temples. He’d like Bucky’s friends to be around, but then Teddy could meet them. He’s earnest and probably too dense to realize they’re the murderers, but Steve’s protective of Bucky. The thought of losing him—it hurts. It tugs Steve’s stomach and gives it a hard yank. He winces.

“It’s probably best if you all just lay low for a bit. Just for a few weeks.”

“We can behave like normal people, Steve.”

“Yeah, but Brock,” Steve looks over at Jack, “do you think he could?”

“Bucky’s made it painfully clear that Brock isn’t allowed over anymore.”

“Oh.” Steve shouldn’t feel guilty. But Brock’s love for Bucky is what drives him. He’d risked his life and his face for Bucky. Steve owes Brock for Bucky’s life. Not only that, but this just proves to Steve that these people aren’t all monsters—entirely. Or maybe that’s just Steve trying to find ways to make himself sleep better at night.

“We can lie low,” Natasha says, “if you give me that cute lil paintin’. I’ll even pay for it.”

“Oh I couldn’t ask—”

“You sell art. Let me buy it.”

Steve smiles. He looks at his canvas, his gaze scanning over what needs fixed and what’s beyond saving. “It’s not done yet though.”

“I can wait for it.” Natasha smiles earnestly. “I’ll be back to get it tomorrow?”

Steve nods. “Shouldn’t be a problem. Thank you.”

Jack offers a lazy salute and Natasha just turns, wiggling her fingers goodbye. Steve sighs, looking down at the cottage. He should just go inside and finish it, now that he can’t afford numb fingers to mess up more on it.

He touches the dried corners of the painting. He’d painted a blue cottage. Closing his eyes, he thinks back on the cottage with the quartz counters. No matter how hard he tries to move on, he’s always stuck there, longing for it. He doesn’t want to go back to a brown ranch with dated appliances. He doesn’t want to see the bare furniture or his studio, still in shambles. He wants a house with a life inside. It all feels like he’s just on the run—just waiting for the other ball to drop.

He looks up, sighing. Teddy’s in his car on the side of the street. Steve wonders how long he’s been there. Panic sets in when he thinks about Nat and Jack. Did he make note of them? Did he see their faces? How long’s he been there?

He’d worry more, except Angie comes out to coax him inside. He goes, but not before sending a little wave Teddy’s way.

Teddy waves back.


“He’s just sitting out there!” Bucky’s pressed against the windows. The palm of his hands hand leaves marks on the window and his breath is fogging it up in little puffs. “Just—sitting!”

“That’s his job, Bucky.”

“It’s borderline stalker.” Bucky looks over his shoulder. He nibbles on his bottom lip, watching Steve slip off his briefs. “I can’t make love to you if he’s out there watchin’.”

“We have blinds for a reason.”

“It’s weird .”

“The list of things you think are weird—is fascinating.” Steve lies on the bed. He opens his legs, stretching out. He knows the show he’s putting on, and truthfully, he likes the hunger that darkens Bucky’s eyes.

Bucky turns away from the window, his lips parted.

Steve moves up the bed more, shrugging. “I guess, if you don’t wanna make love to me—I’ll just use a toy.”

Bucky’s brows shoot up. “Oh you will, huh?”

“Yeah.” Steve reaches between his legs, rubbing around his clit. “I’m feelin’ really needy for something deep inside me tonight.”

Bucky swallows loudly. He’s a few paces closer to Steve when he snaps up straight, turning for the window.

Steve almost groans, tossing his head back.

“I just need’ta close these!” Bucky shoves the curtains over the window. He turns back around, slipping out of his shorts and jumps onto the bed.

“Oh my God!” Steve covers his face, laughing at how eager his lover is tonight. Bucky goes through phases, distant, playful, human, alive, dead. Tonight is a good night, and Steve’s not going to waste it. “You like fuckin’ me, baby?” Steve wraps his legs around Bucky.

Bucky nods, humming. He kisses at Steve’s throat, nibbling along the muscle. He’s already hard and he pushes against Steve’s clit. It massages at Steve. Each time it slips up, Steve’s shivering, moaning into the air around them.

“What do you wanna do to me Bucky?” Steve’s gaze is hooded. He looks up, licking his lips. “Tell me.”

Bucky hesitates, confusion going through his eyes. He bites his lip, looking down at Steve’s body. “I wanna cut you open.”

Steve nudges his clit against Bucky’s cock.

“Split you from cunt to jaw and watch your insides all fall out. Bet they’re so damn pretty, Steve.”

Steve does like flirting with danger. The image doesn’t make him wet, but the idea of that kind of desire radiating from Bucky all but makes him come. He rocks into Bucky, making sure to get as much of his slick over that cock as he can.

“Keep goin’,” Steve leans forward to kiss Bucky’s lips, “I want you to tell me everything.”

Bucky leans back, pushing the tip of his cock inside Steve. He doesn’t get further than the tip before pulling back out. “God—I love how you clench around me. Wanna know if you’d clench up like that after the life leaves your body.”

Steve breathes hard, canting his hips for more friction. He’s sweating, staring with a hunger he hasn’t felt since the first time he’d begged Bucky to talk like this to him. Is it—unhealthy—to like this? It’s not killing. Steve doesn’t like killing. But the idea of Bucky, killing him—with the reverence he shows Steve? It makes Steve’s body warm up, melting down into the sheets below him. He’s weightless, soaring on a high he couldn’t get from a drug. It comes from flirting with death, hanging too close to the edge, walking over the bridge that looks like it’ll break. It lurks in the back of every person’s mind, waiting patiently. Humanity has always been fascinated with death. Gore movies can have no plot but chopping into people and flocks of people still go see them.

There are collectors of oddities, human bone, taxidermy, there are books about death, coping with death, experiencing death.

Steve gasps when Bucky pushes into him again. He squeezes around Bucky, begging him with his body not to leave it again. Reaching out, Steve runs his fingers down Bucky’s back, digging in as hard as he can.

Bucky groans, dropping his face into Steve’s neck and biting so hard he draws blood. The pain shoots through Steve, like an arrow, sharp and deep in its mark.

“Keep—talking—”

Bucky kisses Steve’s lips, licking into his mouth with a cherry red tongue. Steve tastes copper and he snaps his hips forward, taking more of Bucky into him.

“I’m gonna kill you one day baby,” Bucky rocks slowly, arching his back and letting each vertebrae slip back into place. “Gonna make the most beautiful mess of you.”

Tears warm Steve’s eyes. He wraps his arms around Bucky, matching his slow thrusts. “Please. End me, baby. Please, please.”

“I promise,” Bucky whispers. “I’ll fucking destroy you.”


Steve wakes up, itchy and still uncomfortably wet. He stands up and winces when a small amount of come slips from between his thighs. He should’ve gone to the bathroom when they were done.

In the bathroom, he sits on the toilet, staring at the opposite wall. Relief warms him as he pees, washing away sex, come and slick. He sits back, feeling the cool bite of the toilet’s porcelain.

Bucky knocks on the door, but opens it a second later.

Steve’s still on the toilet, elbow resting atop his knee and chin cradled in hand.

“It’s all a game, right?” Bucky’s staring at his feet. “I asked last time but—it’s a game—yeah?”

“Yeah. I don’t really mean it. I just like—fantasizing about it.”

Bucky purses his lips.

Steve stands up, flushing and washing his hands. He grabs a wet towelette and wipes his pussy clean as he can. He turns around, wrapping his arms around Bucky’s shoulders. They’re almost the same height. Steve brushes his nose against Bucky’s.

Bucky’s fingers are chilled, his nose too. He leans into Steve’s warmth, wrapping his arm around Steve’s torso.

“Maybe if I’m old and unable to go on or somethin’—but yeah—s’just a game, Buck.”

“Good.” Bucky kisses the scab where he’d taken a bite of Steve’s neck. “I don’t want you to leave me.”

Steve cups Bucky’s face, brushing his thumb over it. “I’m not goin’ anywhere, baby.”

“But—what if—what if I do?”

Steve steps back, tilting his head to the side. “I’m not following.”

“I mean if I get caught. What happens to us?”

Steve doesn’t like the idea of having such an emotional conversation in a bathroom of all places. He kisses Bucky soft and sweet on the lips, grabs his lover’s hand, and tugs him away from the bathroom.

Bucky follows silently, like an obedient puppy. Steve leads him to the bed and then scoops Bucky up in his arms. He kisses Bucky’s forehead, distantly playing with the shaggy strands of his hair.

“I’m so scared that day’s gonna happen if you don’t stop.”

Bucky nods against Steve’s chest. “I know. But—I can’t stop, Steve. I—it’s so hard .”

“I know, shhh, shh baby.” Steve kisses Bucky’s hair, nuzzling his love. His heart squeezes, shedding its tears because his eyes are all cried out over the subject. He’s thought about it over and over. Worried about the day a fleet of screaming, angry red and blue lights would come to surround the house. Steve can see the dogs snarling and barking as they salivate for Bucky’s bones. He can see the reporters with their bright flashes that set Bucky into a panic attack. He can see the whole thing with such acute clarity.

“Steve?” Bucky cups Steve’s face with his hand, “you’re heart’s racin’.”

Steve blinks a few times. “Oh.” Steve presses his hand over his chest. His heart is racing, soaring off from the fear of losing Bucky. “What could I do to make you stop?”

“Stop killing?”

Steve nods.

Bucky settles back into Steve’s arms. He absently trails his flesh fingers up and down Steve’s arm. It makes Steve shiver and tickle all at once, but he’d never ask Bucky to stop. Bucky’s hand does such gruesome things. It’s nice to feel it do something tender.

“I dunno, Steve. It’d be hard.”

“I could let you do whatever you wanted—as long as it doesn’t kill me. Cut me, beat me, tie me up. We could even play pretend and I could act like one of your victims. Anything, Buck.”

Bucky sucks in a breath, it’s shaky and presses his back into Steve’s sternum. “What if I accidently went too far? Steve—I couldn’t live with myself if I killed you.”

The words make Steve smile. It’s always nice to hear the monster proclaim his humanity. He adjusts himself against the pillows. Bucky so rarely opens himself up like this. He’s been clingier since Steve left, and Steve prays it’s not temporary. He likes a clingy Bucky—one that he could maybe even provide for and really make a life with.

“It’s just an idea,” Steve kisses Bucky’s mangled shoulder. “We can talk more about precautions and all that jazz later.”

Bucky doesn’t respond for a long time. “Okay,” he finally whispers.”

Satisfied, with a small smile on his lips, Steve gets back under the covers, pulling Bucky along with him. They settle in together, both listening to the wind outside and the cars that drive down the street.


The Halloween party’s already crowded when Steve and Bucky arrive. There’re cars all the way out Peggy and Angie’s driveway and plenty in the yard. Steve runs his fingers along the steering wheel of the truck. He turns to Bucky, licking his lips. “Ready?”

“So many.” Bucky’s staring at the house. His brows are pinched, his eyes pleading to turn tail and run.

“You’ll be with me the whole time.”

“So many, Steve. I don’t—I can’t—what—”

“You’re gonna be fine. You’re with me, baby.”

“What if they don’t understand my costume?”

Steve snorts. “Everyone’s seen Scream . They will.” Not to mention Steve used to watch it every Halloween with Sam in high school.

Bucky runs his tongue back and forth over his lips. He looks at the house, back at Steve, and back at the house again. “I’m scared.” He sits back in the seat. His fear is almost palpable. It wafts through the car like stale fruit.

Steve wrinkles his nose. He wants to say something to soothe Bucky’s fear, but nothing he can say would do anything. Bucky’s in his head. It’s made up and he’s certain these people will do something to frighten him. How can a man so murderous be so terrified of the very thing he hunts?

Steve clenches his jaw. Even the hunter fears the angry lion.

“We won’t stay long,” Steve says. He plays to Bucky’s hopes instead of trying to soothe his fears. Steve wants to stay. He’d like to have a few beers, get a little buzzed and play air hockey in the basement. But then his stomach drops. He hasn’t told Peggy about the cops. She has no idea why Teddy’s sitting in a car two down from Steve’s. He ponders how long he could keep up the lack of confession. Technically, no one’s aware of Steve’s involvement except the police and Bucky’s gang. He doesn’t have to spoil this party. He’ll talk to her later. Not here—that’d ruin the whole thing.

“Let’s go inside.” Steve opens his door, swinging out of the truck. Bucky slips his mask over his face and follows like a ghost. He pulls out his plastic knife that has a current of fake blood streaming on the inside. Steve can’t help the tingle that runs down his spine and lodges in his pussy. He’d rather Bucky take him in that stupid mask against a tree and shove that plastic knife inside him.

Fuck .

Steve knocks on the door, adjusting his costume.

The door opens and Peggy’s there. She’s wearing face makeup like the pop comic art with bright red lips and thick painted brows. Her face is radiant when she smiles at Steve. He relaxes. She has no idea yet.

“Steve! You’re a—Superman?”

“Clark Kent just as he gets into the telephone booth.” Steve opens up his button down a little more, showing off the Superman insignia. “I also didn’t wanna put my contacts in tonight.”

“I love your glasses, dork.” Peggy flicks them for added effect. “Hello Bucky.” Her voice couldn’t be flatter. She stares with barely disguised disgust, eyes hooded and a sneer hardening her expression.

“Peggy.” Bucky’s voice is a little muffled by the Scream mask.

“Come in you two.” Peggy steps aside, welcoming them inside.

The wave of energy hits Steve before he even gets all the way in. Decorations hang on the walls, spiders, bats, flashing red eyes. There are fake skeletons posed in the living room like they’re talking to the guests. Steve smiles, looking around.

Angie is Minnie Mouse. Sam and who Steve assumes is T’Challa are both cat burglars with painted black noses, cat ears and felt tails. Scott Lang is here and Steve assumes he’s a mad scientist or Albert Einstein. There are plenty of faces Steve doesn’t recognize and a little pull tugs on his heart. Sharon won’t be here. She loved Halloween. She’d always hand make her costume—great big princess dresses that’d she’d then tear up and flick with fake blood. She loved zombie princesses.

Bucky wraps his hand around Steve’s, huddling against Steve’s shoulder. He tries to make himself small, hiding behind his mask. Steve looks at him and then at the crowd. Sam’s waving, his smile bright and sparkling.

“Steve! Meet T’Challa!” His arm is hanging around the other man, their faces flushed and close. Steve smirks. They’re a little drunk and a little into each other. Sam’s always put the needs of others before his own. It’s nice to see him indulging in himself for once. T’Challa’s handsome with a gentle face and broad shoulders. He smiles easy, and that’s really good enough for Steve. As long as Sam’s happy—Steve’s happy.

“Pleasure,” Steve says, shaking T’Challa’s hand.

“Pleasure is all mine. I hear wonderful things about you.”

“Oh gosh, I’m sure not.” Steve’s ears go pink and he stares at his feet.

“Nice costume, man,” Sam says. “Oh, you must be Bucky. I’m Sam!” Sam puts out his hand to shake, but Bucky recoils a bit behind Steve.

“He’s—I told you he’s not good with people.”

“Oh!” Sam pulls back his hand. “Sorry.”

Bucky doesn’t say a word. He looms near Steve, like one of the skeletons in the room. He’s more a decoration than a living person. Steve wishes he’d take the mask off and talk to Sam. He doesn’t need Sam on the anti-Bucky train too. Having Peggy there is hard enough.

“Could you show them your face, Bucky?” Steve wraps his arm around Bucky’s shoulders.

Bucky brings a gloved hand up to the mask and slips it back. He winces looking at Sam.

“Hey man.”

Bucky nods.

“You can put it back on,” Steve whispers, kissing Bucky’s cheek.

Bucky shoves the mask back down. He tucks his flesh arm into Steve’s and goes back to trying to hide behind Steve.

“How long you in town, T’Challa?” Steve asks. The small talk is the only thing he has right now. He’s too preoccupied with Bucky clinging to him to really think of something creative to say.

“A little over a month. I’ll be going back to Harvard after Thanksgiving.”

“Wow! Long break!”

“Not a break. I’m working here for a bit.”

Steve’s about to ask on what when Scott comes over. His wig is wild and silver. He moves a little top heavy and spills some of his beer on Steve’s shoe.

“Oh—sorry! Hey, man! You look—you taller than last time?” His breath stings Steve’s eyes.

“No, Scott. I’m still the same height. Oh, this is my boyfriend, Bucky.” Steve gestures to Bucky. Bucky squeezes Steve’s arm harder.

“He’s quiet,” Sam says.

“Oh hey, man!” Scott shoves his hand out and he knocks into Bucky’s prosthetic. Bucky goes rigid, tugging away from Steve and stepping back. He’s breathing hard and shoves his mask off.

“Don’t fucking touch me!”

“Bucky—Buck it’s okay, he’s just drunk.” Steve steps forward but Bucky recoils again, cringing. “Bucky!”

Bucky runs, making his way for the door. He clashes into Angie and shoves her down. The room gasps and then goes abruptly silent. Bucky stands there, staring down at Angie. He looks up at Steve, eyes watering.

“I’m—” He doesn’t finish his sentence. He leaves. The door is open, and the room is silent. Steve can feel everyone turn to him. His skin goes ice cold. He can feel gazes roam like wandering hands.  

Peggy helps Angie up. She straightens out her girlfriend’s mouse ears and looks to Steve, anger all over her face.

“I asked you not to bring him.”

Steve’s heart crumbles.

“He’s—he’s just got some issues,” Sam says. Steve wants to turn and kiss his best friend. Through anything, Sam’s always had his back. He’s always on Steve’s team—no matter what. Maybe he’d even understand when Steve comes clean about his lie. He’s not sure Peggy will.

“He pushed my girlfriend!” Peggy bristles. She can go from the most beautiful woman to the most dangerous in a flash. Her makeup only makes her look angrier. Steve’s throat goes dry. He’s always making apologies for Bucky. He’s always stressed on how Bucky’ll react to people, if he’ll have a good time or not. The answer is always the same, no matter how many times Steve tries to lie to himself. Bucky doesn’t do well with people unless he’s slicing into their flesh. It’s just who Bucky is. Steve’s a fool to try to change that.


Then

Steve’s chained to the bed. He’s been this way for weeks now. Fear isn’t really the right word anymore. Resigned, disinterest, all the fight gone—giving up—whatever fancy or not so fancy way to express just how done Steve is with fighting. He’s refused food, he’s spat in his captor’s face. He’s done everything he can think of to show he’s not okay with this. Today though, today he’s just staring up at the ceiling, counting the cracks where water damage has seeped in.

His captor opens the door. He’s more fidgety than usual. Steve’s become accustomed to a nervous captor. Something about that he finds amusing. This man was a confident, dangerous killer once. Now he’s reduced to obsessively licking his lips and wringing his fingers.

“Um—do you—do you need to pee?”

“No.” Steve hates that part. Bucky doesn’t watch him. He never watches. Steve’s silently grateful for that. Bucky lets Steve shower and go to the bathroom in peace each time he asks of it. Then he’s always chained right back up. Steve used to try to run. He even got away once before Bucky threw a knife that grazed Steve’s shoulder and caused him to fall in shock.

Steve doesn’t fight anymore. It’s not worth it at this point. He’s allowed to talk to his friends online. He’s allowed to call home on the rare occasion. He’s allowed to look and pretend to be real and free without actually being real and free. Steve just don’t care anymore. He’d been worried once. Not anymore. He’s done .

“Hungry?”

“No.”

Bucky sighs, leaning against the doorframe. “You hate me.”

“Yup.”

“I can’t let you go.”

“I know. So you’ll keep me locked up for the rest of my life? Or are you gonna kill me soon?”

Bucky shrugs. The act sends a deep chill down Steve’s spine. “There’re things—about you—things I wanna know.”

Steve spits out what’s supposed to be a laugh. “Why do you even care?”

Bucky blinks. Maybe he hadn’ even asked himself that question. Surprise trickles into his gray eyes. They widen slowly, processing his thoughts like a dated computer, slow but still steady enough.

Steve tugs on a chain. “This hurts.” His wrist is rubbed raw and it’s starting to bleed. “Can you loosen it?” He doesn’t expect the question to even be answered. Startled, he recoils into the bed as Bucky comes over. He watches, mouth slack as Bucky loosens the chain.

“Better?”

“Y-yeah—thanks.”

Bucky offers what Steve thinks is a smile, though it’s more like a grimace.

“What d’you wanna know about me?”

“I found somethin’ when cleanin’ all your stuff outta the lakehouse.”

Steve’s stomach drops.

“What’s delatestryl?”

Steve cringes. He can’t possibly think this won’t weird out the psycho. That pulls a bitter laugh out of Steve’s throat. It has all the sounds of resignation and the fight long since gone. Stale and abrupt as it came. Steve sighs, dropping his head against the pillow. He may as well lie down and just—take it.

“It’s for hormone replacement therapy.”

Bucky’s expression doesn’t change.

“For trans people.”

Still no change in expression.

“I was born a—well I’ve got—my birth certificate says I’m female.”

Bucky’s brows rise. He looks down Steve’s body and it’s enough for Steve to want to pull his legs in and cry. It doesn’t matter what he looks like. Tall, broad and muscular or just tall, lanky and too-big for the average girl. All anyone ever will see is a weak woman. A woman to take advantage of or ruin. Steve did think he may as well just take it. But his survival instincts work against him. His body tingles, feet begging to run. Hands begging to hit.

“Do you need the delatestryl?”

That wasn’t the response Steve was expecting. His mouth falls open, eyes staring at Bucky’s blank expression. “I—yes?”

“You should’ve told me before.” Bucky stands, turning toward the door.

Steve’s flabbergasted, staring off after Bucky. He blinks in a flutter when Bucky comes back, holding a bottle of HRT and a needle.

“It doesn’t—you’re not—um—most people don’t just—I’m confused.”

“Why?” Bucky reads the directions on the side of the bottle.

“I’ve still got—I only got top surgery. I’m not changin’ my—um—why am I even tellin’ you this.” He drops his head back against the headboard, blocking out his surprise and confusion with waves of pain as he hits the board again and again.

Bucky’s hand blocks the next time he tries. He looks up at his captor’s face, gaze trailing from the dead expression to his lips. Bucky’s smiling. It’s not big, it’s not even the best. It still looks more pained than happy, but it’s definitely a smile.

“Do you honestly think I have any right to judge you?”

“Oh well—I mean—I didn’t know if it’d make you kill me any faster.”

Bucky’s hand is still cradling Steve’s head. He snorts out a laugh, showing off the needle to Steve. “You kidding? I get to stick you with a needle. I’m thrilled.”

“You’re sick.” Steve finds himself smiling.

Bucky nods, his smile turning warmer than Steve’s ever seen. “Unconditionally.”


Now

“I can’t find him,” Steve says. He’s leaning into Teddy’s squad car. He feels sick. He’d gone home, hoping to find Bucky there. When he arrived, he found an empty house full of silence and hushed secrets. “Can we—can we do something? He’s—he’s sick. He’s not good with people! I’m afraid he’ll get hurt!”

“I mean—technically—” Teddy cringes. He looks to his computer and then back up at Steve. “We’re not supposed to file missing persons for 24 hours.”

“Teddy c’mon! He’s—he’s so scared of people.” Tears sting in his eyes. He wants to break down. He wants to take the night, eat it up and die from the shards in his stomach. He should’ve never forced Bucky to be anything other than what he is. Steve can’t change him. The normal life Steve wants doesn’t exist with Bucky. Steve must choose.

Bucky—

—or that normal life.

“Okay, okay I’ll call it in. Is he a veteran?”

“Hm?”

“His arm—I mean missing arm. Does he have PTSD?”

“Oh—um—no. He’s just—he had a bad accident. He was in a fire.”

“Oh! He’s that guy!” Teddy relaxes, reaching forward to grab his radio. “I knew he looked familiar.”

“What do you mean?” Steve wants to vomit.

“Small town. Kid and his foster brother got stuck in a fire and he lost his arm and his foster brother lost half his face. We just all know the stories.” He starts talking into the radio, words and codes that Steve doesn’t understand. Steve leans against the cop car. His lips are chapped, his throat dry. If he stays with Bucky, he gives up the life he’d dreamed of. If he leaves Bucky, he gives up the one person who loves him unconditionally.

There isn’t a single thing Steve could do to make Bucky hate him. There’s not a secret between them. Bucky’s never been anything but honest to Steve. They were forged in an unusual circumstance, but Steve’s love is real. He thinks back on the way he’d found himself in love with Bucky. The subtle glimpses of a man behind the monster. The smiles, the laughs. The music. God, the music. Steve would give anything to hear Pan’s Labyrinth right now.

But if Steve stays, all he’ll have is Bucky. Bucky’s path is darkness, blood and danger. Steve will never be able to relax. He’ll always be isolated from his friends. He’ll always harbor a secret. If he stays—he gives himself up.

“Steve? Steve?” Teddy’s voice breaks into Steve’s thoughts. He’s looking up from his squad car with round eyes and round cheeks. Steve envies him. Teddy has a boyfriend too. Probably a normal one. It shouldn’t be like this. Steve shouldn’t be so unhappy. Why couldn’t someone normal love him? Why’d it have to be—

No.

Steve clenches his jaw. His life isn’t easy. His transition was terrifying and he battled with himself and his fears every day. He was rejected by plenty of guys. Those guys weren’t normal . They were jackasses. Steve is a man and what’s between his legs should mean nothing when loving a whole person . Steve isn’t just his vagina or his scars. He’s a living, breathing man with goals, fears, wishes, desires. He’s a fully realized human and damn anyone who thinks otherwise.

And Bucky doesn’t think otherwise. Bucky accepts Steve for everything that he is. He doesn’t fetishize Steve’s parts. He’s respectful of Steve’s wishes. He leads when Steve wants to follow and he follows when Steve wants to lead. They’ve got something so good and so uniquely them.

Tears spill down Steve’s cheeks. He heaves a sigh, watching Teddy turn the siren and lights on his car.

“We’ll find him, Steve. Get your friends looking.” Teddy drives off.

Steve drops to his knees. He leans forward, reaching out and grabbing twigs, pine needles and gravel on his driveway. He screams. He lets the vibrations tear through him, echo into the trees and shake the earth. He has a love who wants him, and Steve had been standing there weighing the pros and cons of leaving . Bucky’s always been so scared of that. He’s always thought he wasn’t good enough and Steve let him believe it. Steve put Bucky down, tossed him in an unredeemable category when it’d been Steve all along.

Not all monsters wear blood. Steve is a monster. One who’s been idly manipulating his lover into anything that he’s not. He’s been changing Bucky, nagging, begging and forcing. Rape isn’t just forcing sex. It’s forcing actions. Steve—raped—Bucky into going to this party. He raped him into moving. He’s been pulling Bucky’s strings ever since they met and not once has Steve ever stopped to question his own actions.

He’d been so selfish, wanting it all.

Steve whimpers, staring at the ground. He can’t have it all.

The world doesn’t work that way.


“Would you just—help?” Steve’s in front of Peggy and Angie. The party’s been long over. People are either drunk and passed out on couches or are on their ways home. The streamers are torn, most likely from Scott and Wade’s drunken behavior. Peggy’s makeup is smudged and there’s a few kiss marks on Angie’s cheeks. They look tired and ready for bed, but Steve’s pleading on their front porch, hands cupped together. He’s ready to get on his knees and beg.

“He’s missing.” He sounds pathetic, voice strained and throat clamped. He can’t keep crying. He cried the whole way to Peggy’s and he’s not even sure if it was over Bucky or over the realization he’s had. He’s not sure about anything except he can only handle things one step at a time. First, find Bucky. Worry about the rest later.

Peggy clicks her tongue. She caresses Angie’s cheek and then rubs at the lipstick to smear it away. Angie looks at her with big eyes, eyes that Steve hopes are trying to convince Peggy to help. God, if she knew Bucky was the reason Sharon was dead—that’d be the end of this friendship. Steve’s on a landmine and if he moves a muscle, it’ll blow.

“I’d be a mess if I ever lost you.” Peggy’s looking at Angie, her hand still on Angie’s cheek. “Fine, Steve. I’ll help.”

“Thank you.” Steve’s not filled with relief. His heart squeezes and he fears Peggy’s involvement will eventually make the whole thing blow up. Peggy may meet Teddy through all this. Steve could keep digging into his lie, or he could finally confess to the whole thing. One step at a time. One fucking step at a time.

“I’m gonna keep checkin’ some of his friends’ houses.”

“He has friends?” Angie’s brows fly up her forehead. “I mean—God—sorry—that was mean.”

“Just check your neighborhood and the surrounding park? Maybe the pier? Is Sam in there? He could help too.”

“I’ll get him,” Peggy says. “Be careful, Steve.”

Steve nods, turning to run. He gets into his truck and the tires screech as he steps on the gas. His eyes scan everywhere, the sidewalks, the nearby trees. He takes good looks at each intersection. He half contemplates shining his phone’s flashlight around.

He gets to Nat’s apartment. The shops below have been long closed for the night, but there’s a light on in her apartment. Steve goes through the apartment entrance and runs up the steps to bang on Natasha’s door.

Natasha opens the door, anger burning in her irises. Her brow’s furrowed and there’s a snarl on her lips. She relaxes when she sees Steve.

“Bucky’s missing. We were at a party and he got spooked. He’s—I can’t find him.”

“Did you check the cabin?”

Steve blinks.

“Steve?” Natasha arches a perfect red brow.

“N-no. I didn’t think—I mean I was—it’s been—”

“You should go there.” Natasha leans on the doorframe. “Is your cop buddy following you?”

“He’s out looking for Bucky.”

“Make sure he doesn’t follow you there. There’s evidence all over that place.”

Steve nods. Relief mixes with anxiety like oil and water. It stirs inside him, sludges around when he moves down the stairs and out into the open air. He grips the steering wheel tight and looks around. Teddy’s not around. He speeds off, praying he’ll find Bucky before the sun comes up.


Then

Steve’s cold. The rain’s loud against the tin roof of the shack. He tries to curl into the ratty blanket he has, but he can’t get warm. His feet are ice.

He stands up and slowly walks for the door. He opens it just a tad and sees Bucky on the couch. He’s reading a book and has reading glasses on. It’s so human that Steve believes there’s something salvable inside him yet. And Bucky has started to let him off his chains. He’s told Steve he’s free to go. Steve just hasn’t left.

Steve pads out into the room. Bucky looks up, lifeless eyes staring at Steve with an intensity that makes Steve’s skin crawl. He shifts and clears his throat. He tries to look at Bucky again, but it’s hard. Bucky’s face is gaunt in the fire’s light. His face all hard lines and edges. He could cut through Steve in a heartbeat. A true killer.

Steve wraps the blanket around his shoulders tighter and then goes to sit in front of the couch. He rests his head back on Bucky. Bucky’s hand reaches out. It’s hesitant at first, unsure and more exploratory than confident. He brushes his fingers through Steve’s blond strands, then lets his fingers scratch at the scalp. Steve shivers. They sit in silence. Steve can hear the pages turn every now and then. His eyes feel heavy. He lets them close.

“You should be in bed.” Bucky’s voice is as sharp as his face. It startles Steve’s eyes open. He looks at Bucky from upside-down. Bucky’s face holds no emotion, no sign of life. And yet there’s beauty in those sharp edges. Steve reaches up, tracing along where the light from the fire casts shadows down Bucky’s cheekbones. Bucky clenches his jaw, but he doesn’t pull away.

“I’m cold,” Steve whispers.

“I’ll get you another blanket.”

“I don’t want another blanket.” Steve’s hand moves to Bucky’s lips. He traces them, a giddy feeling inside him when Bucky’s lips part. He dips his finger inside, and Bucky’s tongue flicks softly against the pad of his finger. Steve’s body tingles, heating up from the need inside him. It’s been so long since he’s been with someone. Bucky doesn’t care. He gives Steve his shots. He knows what’s between Steve’s legs. He’s looking at Steve with a hunger that Steve’s sure is in his eyes too.

“Bucky.”

Bucky drops his book. He pushes Steve to the floor, his lips on Steve’s. It hurts. It’s rough and Steve’s sure his mouth’ll bleed before it’s over. Bucky’s scruff scratches him hard. His fingers wrap around Steve’s throat and he squeezes. His prosthetic thumps on the floor, cast aside. Steve doesn’t even know how he took the damn thing off.

Bucky bites on Steve’s tongue. Steve moans, his body lurching up. Bucky trails nips and kisses down Steve’s throat to his chest. He rubs at Steve’s pussy through the fabric, fingers that were so unsure are now more than knowledgeable.

Steve groans, dropping his head back to the hard flooring. He splays out, opening his legs. Bucky slips between them, his nose nuzzling Steve’s thigh.

“Oh God,” Steve rushes out, “is this—are we?”

Bucky stops. He sits up. His eyes reflect the fire and Steve finds it ironic. Burning passion has never looked more literal.

“Do you want this?” Bucky asks. “Think hard, Steve.”

Steve’s throat goes dry.

“Do you—want me?”

The way Bucky’s voice loses all its hardness pierces into Steve’s soul. He’s afraid Steve will reject him. His cheeks are heating up, his lashes are batting quickly. He’s radiating nerves and enough humanity to make Steve forgive everything he’s ever done to anyone else. To Sharon, to Harry. He’s even okay with having been chained to a bed. Bucky’s here and he’s offering himself and he’s scared . Fear is so—so human.

“Bucky.” Steve weaves his fingers into Bucky’s shirt. He tugs, pulling Bucky atop him again. Bucky goes pliant, letting Steve do whatever he wants. Steve takes full advantage. He kisses Bucky’s eyelids, the tip of his nose. He rubs his own nose along cheekbones and that sharp jaw. He licks at Bucky’s throat and rolls them over.

Bucky’s cock is hard. It presses along Steve’s thigh. He moves, curious how Bucky’ll react. Bucky winces, his teeth clenched. Steve rocks his hips again and Bucky gasps.

“I want you,” Steve says. He unbuttons Bucky’s shirt at the top. “I want you.” He keeps unbuttoning. “I want you.”

Tears reflect the flames in the hearth. Bucky blinks them away, his mouth open in awe. He cups Steve’s face, running his thumb back and forth.

“God,” he swallows roughly, “I never thought I’d—I didn’t—this wasn’t my plan. I just—you need to know that—this wasn’t what I took you for.”

Steve opens Bucky’s shirt, looking at taut abs and a thinly hairy chest. He runs his fingers over Bucky’s pecs, squeezing them. Bucky arches into it.

“Then why did you take me?”

Bucky’s breathing hard. His chest rises and falls and Steve bobs with each exhale. Bucky’s whole body is expanding and relaxing with his lungs. He thrusts up with his cock, eyes fluttering.

“I don’t—I just wanted you.”

“Yeah?” Steve doesn’t take his shirt off. He knows in the darkness it may be okay, but he doesn’t want his scars to distract Bucky. But then again—Steve’s gaze travels to the gnarled scars on Bucky’s side where his arm was. Steve wonders what could leave scars to shiny and red like that. A burn? A bite?

“You make me—you make me feel alive, Steve.”

Steve smiles.

“I wanted to feel alive.”

Steve leans forward, pressing a soft kiss to Bucky’s lips. He holds it, opening his eyes to watch the way Bucky kisses. Bucky’s brow is pinched, his eyes closed tight. He looks so scared, like he has no idea what he’s doing. Maybe he doesn’t. It’s a fair possibility.

“I’ll make you feel alive,” Steve says against Bucky’s lips. “I want you, Bucky.”

They don’t get very far. Bucky goes soft halfway through their dry humping and then he cries. He cries in Steve’s arms, cries because how could someone like you want me .

Steve strokes at Bucky’s hair, listening to those whimpers and the crackling of the fireplace. He kisses Bucky’s head, holds him close and wonders the exact same thing.

What did make him want Bucky like this?  


Now

When Steve gets to the cabin, he sees a black, shiny car. He knows Bucky hasn’t sold the place yet, a fact that used to sit uneasily inside him. Now Steve understands why. He can’t change Bucky any more than he could change a rabid dog. He’d have to shoot them both to get them to stop. There’s a flicker in the window. Someone’s got the fireplace lit.

Steve stands next to the door, trying to hear in. When he hears nothing but the crackle of the fire, he knocks on the door. “It’s me, Buck.”

Silence.

Steve frowns and then turns the knob. The door creaks open. In the warm light from the fire, Steve sees Brock’s mangled face. He looks more demon than human. His face angry reds and harsh shiny skin. The fire’s reflection illuminates the scarring, a horrible reminder of its power. Brock’s holding Bucky, stroking his fingers through Bucky’s messy hair. He doesn’t smile, he doesn’t sneer. He looks through Steve. It’s almost worse than Brock screaming at him.

Bucky is whimpering, sniffling silently into Brock’s shirt.

Steve looks back at the car. He’d never seen what car Brock drove. Somehow, knowing Brock has one humanizes him. He pictures Brock running to the grocery or on errands. It’s sobering, to think Brock has a uniquely living life just like Natasha—even with that gruesome face.

Steve enters the shack and closes the door. He sits down on the dusty armchair. He wants to speak, but perhaps it’s the wrong time. Bucky curls into Brock more, a puppy to its master. Brock cradles him in his arms. He doesn’t stop caressing Bucky’s hair.

Jealously swirls in Steve, licking at his heart with hot steam. Brock shouldn’t be the one Bucky went to, it should’ve been Steve. Steve should’ve been the one to cure Bucky’s fears. But this had been all Steve’s doing. He’d pushed and pushed and now Bucky went to the only person who had never asked anything of him except to be who he is.

Steve sits back in the chair. He looks up at the ceiling, wincing at all the water damage. The place is going to fall any day now. He sighs, cringing when the sound is louder than he’d wanted it to be. He looks over at Brock and Bucky. Bucky’s face is hidden in Brock’s hoodie. Brock’s still holding him close and stroking his hair. Steve grits his teeth. He’s here now. Bucky should be in his arms. He should’ve looked up and seen the worry on Steve’s face or the relief in his muscles. It hurts to know that Bucky’s in Brock’s arms because Steve had pushed too far. Steve’s the reason he’s crying.

Steve stands up, prepared to leave and sleep alone for the night. He’d call everyone on the way home. Teddy too. It’s imperative Teddy stops searching before it’s too late.

“You happy now, scrub?” Brock.

Steve has one hand on the doorknob. He looks over his shoulder. Brock’s face is seething, brow trembling and jaw tight.

“I didn’t ask for this.”

“No—you just manipulated him into thinking he could be better . This is who he is, Steve! He’s a killer! Just like me. You don’t deserve how he feels for you.”

Tears well in Steve’s eyes. Steve is the terror in Bucky’s nightmares, the friendly face with the knife in his back. Bucky has always been honest. He’s always had that going. Steve? Steve has been the liar. He still is the liar. Peggy, Teddy—the whole damn country. His whole life he’s been a liar. A boy in girl’s dresses, a girl pretending to be a boy. A man in a body that doesn’t quite make sense. He’s always struggled with when to tell a man he was interested in about himself. It’d come out so naturally with Bucky that it never mattered. And Steve hadn’t wanted to fuck him. Interesting—how that all worked out.

“I’m gonna go home, Bucky.” Steve watched for any kind of recognition. Bucky lay in Brock’s arms, sniffling. “You—you come back to me when you’re ready, okay?”

Brock scoffs.

“If—if you—if you still want me.” The pain in Steve’s body is enough to make him want to give up and die. Each step away from the shack is knives and claws in his muscles. Each breath feels like a struggle, the membranes of his lungs trying to squeeze together. He gets into the truck, puffs on his inhaler in a desperate attempt to calm down. His lungs had never been seizing. They just didn’t want to work anymore. He sits back, tears cold and sticky against his cheeks and neck. He doesn’t have the energy to pick up the phone and tell everyone Bucky’s okay. He does a group text: Buck’s fine. He cringes, staring at Teddy’s number. He sends off a text to him too. It feels harder to do. He doesn’t want Teddy knowing where Bucky is. The lamps are made of skin in the shack, the fridge stocked with human meat. Teddy’s response is simple, a balm that soothes at least the anxiety inside Steve: good. Coming back now?

Steve sends another text back that he’s coming back, but Bucky’s with a friend. He throws his phone to the other side of the truck. It tumbles down to the passenger floor and finally stops glowing.

The horrible, harsh, cold, morbid reality of this all is: Steve thought he was the one who had to choose. He never imagined that it’d be Bucky. Steve fingers the fake leather on the steering wheel. He doesn’t want to drive home to a house where he thought he could start something with Bucky. Who the fuck had he been kidding? Halloween parties, children, the dog and the yard—none of that was for Bucky. None of it had ever been for Bucky. He’d tried. He’d compromised and he’d compromised until he had nothing left but Brock fucking Rumlow.

Steve sighs, wiping the tears from his face. He looks up at the tangled mess of tree branches and the silver light from the moon. Bucky’s choice. This is all Bucky’s choice. And the desperation inside Steve is all the answer he needs to know about himself.

Bucky’s it for him. The only love he wants. And if he gets him back, he’ll be damn sure never to push him again. Bucky is his beautiful monster—forever.


Waking without Bucky is like the moon greeting the sky without stars. It’s unusual and alien. A phenomenon that shouldn’t happen. Steve reaches out to Bucky’s pillow. He grabs it and pulls it close. He can smell Bucky on it, the musk of his sweat, the soft fragrance of their shampoo. He inhales deep, eyes watering. He’d made a mistake. Now he pays for it. Steve has many faults, but being selfish when it comes to Bucky is at the top of that list. He’s forced his friends away, he’s played a lying game. He’s changed his whole outlook on what is good and what is bad—all to accommodate Bucky.

Steve lies on his back, Bucky’s pillow on his chest. He sucks at his teeth, blinking. This house isn’t what Bucky wanted. Bucky had been fine where he was. He’d gone back to what had been familiar, Brock and the shack. A life before Steve. It hurts, it hurts so bad. It cracks Steve’s heart, drops blood and love down his body and splashes into his intestines. It sears beneath his fingernails and behind his eyes. This was his mistake.

Steve goes through his day. He showers. He eats. He calls Sam. He pretends to be happy for Sam and T’Challa. They’d kissed last night. He’s not happy though. His heart is a broken shell at the pit of his stomach. It’s not even beating. It’s unfair, it truly is. Steve should be happy for his friend. He should be truly smiling and asking to go out to celebrate. But he’s not.

“Where’s Buck?” Sam asks.

“He didn’t come home.”

“You needed your space too. Give him his.”

Steve gets to his art booth and sets up. He sits next to the space heater Angie gave him. He tries to smile at his customers. Teddy gets bored in his cop car and sits with Steve. He even asks if he can buy some art. Steve sells him some.

“Billy fights with me too,” Teddy says.

Steve cocks a brow.

“My boyfriend? We fight too. My mama always said fightin’ with your love means you feel comfortable enough to show that side to ‘em.”

Steve looks at the ground and watches an ant scurry by. He wonders why it’s not dead or beneath the ground where it’s warm.

“I mean—I don’t know you two. You seem like nice people. And he loves you. I saw it in the way he moves around you. Like he’s orbiting? If that makes sense? You pull him in. My grandma says I’m pulled to Billy.” He laughs and for a moment, Steve forgets he’s in a cop uniform. He’s a friend suddenly, a man trying to make Steve feel better about his miserable mistake. It’s comforting, and Steve basks in it. “Billy gets so pissed sometimes. He’s so smart and I think I’m a little dumb. But I’m just dumb because I love him. I do stupid things—cause I love him so much. I think that’s what’s happenin’ with you two. Doing stupid stuff because you love each other so much.” Teddy nods, a finishing flourish to his words.

Steve finds himself smiling, full and real.


Then

Steve’s in the shower. The water’s gone cold, but he hasn’t gotten out yet. He’s stuck on what’s happening with him and Bucky. They started out so fast. Then Bucky had broken down. Steve never got his turn. He’d been the rock. He’s breaking now. He needs a moment to figure this all out. Bucky’s insane. He’s a murderer. He cracks people’s bodies open and calls it art . But he’s soft. He reveres Steve’s body. He respects his boundaries. He doesn’t question the quirks of being with a trans person. He’d sucked Steve’s clit into his mouth and had been so careful not to hurt it. He’d cherished the scars on Steve’s chest, touching them like they were little gifts and not silent reminders that Steve isn’t perfect.

Steve lets out a shaky breath. What is this? Bucky was his captor, his villain. He’d killed Sharon. Then he told Steve he was free to go. He left the doors unlocked, the windows open. He’d left Steve alone and each morning he’d come back, he was surprised Steve was still there.

Steve leans his head against the grimy tile. It’s slick with shower scum and age. The water’s chilling Steve’s bones. His muscles hurt from being so tense. Bucky’s the best thing that ever happened to Steve—and also the worst.

Steve gets out of the shower. He wraps a towel over his head and one around his body. He comes into the bedroom. Bucky’s sharpening a knife. He drops his towel.

Bucky looks up, his gaze fixes between Steve’s legs and then up to his face. “You need new clothes?”

Steve laughs.

“I can get ‘em. Goin’ out tonight. Guy should be your size.”

Steve cringes at the thought of wearing a dead man’s clothing. He looks at Bucky’s clothes. He’s now sure he wears his victim’s things. He populates the shack with their skin and eats their organs. Nothing seems to go to waste. It’d almost be okay if they weren’t humans. People respect the hunters who use everything.

“None of this bothers you?” Steve gestures to himself.

“Um—should it?” Bucky seems genuinely perplexed.

“Maybe? No? I don’t—are you gay?”

Bucky blinks a few times. He stumbles with the knife and it takes a bite out of his pants. He curses, checking to make sure he’s not cut. He looks back up and shrugs.

“You don’t know?”

“I wasn’t never attracted to anyone, Steve. Then I met you.”

Steve’s throat swells shut.

“Steve, I don’t do the lovey-dovey shit. I ain’t gonna get all fancy or nothin’—but I like you. I like you a lot. And—I don’t know what I’m doin’. I don’t know how to do any of this—not really. But if you’ll have me—I wanna have you—and that body of yours.”

Steve can’t find words to say. He doesn’t want to. Bucky hardly talks. It seems so hard for him to talk. Steve walks in front of Bucky, naked as the day he was born. He slots between Bucky’s legs and curls down for a kiss. Bucky’s breath hits his face, warm and inviting. They share a slow, easy kiss before Steve pulls back. He wraps his legs around Bucky’s waist, his enlarged clit straining from the pull of skin. Bucky looks to it and smiles.

“What?” Steve nips Bucky’s ear.

“I like that you’re so different from other people. Is that—is that wrong?”

Steve shrugs. “Every trans person is different. Some of us want to pretend as hard as we can and others just acknowledge it is what it is.”

“What’re you?” Bucky reaches between them and slides a finger up and down Steve’s clit

“Oh fuck.” Steve drops his head on Bucky’s shoulder. He wants to squeeze his legs and get Bucky to pull out as many orgasms from him as he can before Steve’s crying and begging for him to stop. “I’m—something in-between.”

“Yeah?” Bucky sucks at Steve’s neck. “Tell me. I wanna learn.”

“You’ll make me cry.”

“Why?” Bucky stops fingering Steve. His face is pinched, eyes reflecting Steve’s face back to him.

“Because—how can you be so evil and so good?” Tears well up. Steve’s always cried so easy.

Bucky sighs. He purses his lips, and pinches his brow. Steve’s heart is up in his throat. Had that been offensive? Would Bucky get angry now?

“People aren’t in black and white, Steve. We’re layered. I’d skin a man but I’d also dive into cold water to save a kitten. I like you, Steve. I don’t wanna hurt you and I want this to be somethin’. So teach me. Tell me everythin’ about you. What do you want your body parts called? Is there anything I need to know that you’re sensitive about? Can I know—can I know your birth name? Just tell me what I’m allowed to have and I’ll take it.”

“Oh my God,” Steve says, “I—I’m gonna fall in love with you.”


Now

Steve drags himself into bed that night around 9PM. He tosses and turns till the birds start chirping. He can’t do this. He doesn’t want to go through the motions of pretending to give a shit when his whole world is off kilter. He needs Bucky back. He can’t keep waiting. As he’d admitted—he’s too selfish when it comes to Bucky.

He pulls himself out of bed, puts a shirt on and then heads out. He gets into the truck and watches Teddy’s headlights go on too. “Fuck me!” He punches the steering wheel. “Fuck me! Fuck me! Fuck me!” Heaving air, Steve gets out of the truck and slams the door. He goes over to Teddy and leans into the window.

“You’re up early. Are you goin’ to work like that?”

“I need to be alone. Stop following me.”

“I can’t do that, Steve.”

“God damn it, Teddy! I’m fine!” Steve’s red in the face, looking down at Teddy like a bull looks at a mariachi. “Don’t follow me!”

“I can’t do that, Steve!” Teddy calls as Steve gets back into the truck.

Steve steps on the ignition, barreling out of the driveway. He does everything he can to throw Teddy off his trail. Eventually, Teddy turns on his emergency lights.

“God! Fuck this! Fuck everything!” Steve pulls over, waiting to watch Teddy get out of the car. He taps on the wheel, jitters his leg. Once Teddy’s finally out, he steps on the ignition and speeds off. Teddy scrambles back into his car.

Steve pulls out his phone, dialing Natasha’s number.

“Do you have any idea what time it is, pretty boy?!”

“Early, I know. Look, I’m gonna do something really crazy and I need you to help me with it.”

“Jesus. What is it?”

“I need you to crash into my cop stalker. I’ve gotta see Bucky.”

“Is he at the shack?”

“Yes, with Brock.”

“He’s with Brock?! Why the fuck didn’t you tell me!”

“I didn’t know you needed to know!” Steve turns a hard left, hoping Teddy gets cut off by some cars, but he’s got his sirens on and everyone’s getting out of his way. Steve’s speeding, avoiding the law and now he’s officially part of a high-speed chase. All for Bucky.

“Just—fuck—where are you?”

“Entering highway.”

“I’ll be there. You owe me so much pretty boy!”

Steve hangs up and keeps going. Teddy’s right on his tail. His sirens are loud, screaming at Steve. And Steve, law-abiding citizen would have pulled over. But that’s not who Steve is anymore. Maybe a year ago, but not now. Steve’s an outlaw, a murderer by association. He’s in love—stupid in love—and this is his stupid thing that Teddy said he’d stupidly do because he loves Bucky. It’s really all Teddy’s fault once he explains it all. But he can’t let Teddy see the shack.

Steve sees a car next to his, honking. Nat’s in the driver’s seat and she forms the OK symbol with her hand. Steve steps on the gas, going as fast as he can with the drivers around. He doesn’t want anyone hurt and his exit is coming up.

Nat gets between Teddy and Steve and slams on her breaks. Steve screams, watching Teddy’s car flip over Natasha’s and tumble. Natasha jumps out of her car, flailing her hands. Keep going .

Steve steps on the gas and goes, praying, praying that Teddy is okay.


Brock’s car is still there when Steve gets there. He marches up to the door, slams on it when he realizes it’s locked. He shoves his whole body into the door, trying his best to break the hinges.

Brock opens it just as Steve’s about to ram it again. He stumbles to the floor.

“Jesus Christ, this is rich. What the fuck are you doin, scrub?”

Bucky’s standing in the hall, fear in his eyes and sweat clinging to his greasy hair. He’s got no shirt on and Brock’s in his boxers.

“Did you two— ” Steve feels sick. “We’re not—”

Bucky shakes his head no. Brock gets between Steve’s eyeline of Bucky and pulls Steve up by the scruff of his neck.

“Listen here, scrub. You had yer shot. You blew it.” He shoves Steve against the wall, a hand clasped over Steve’s throat.

“Brock—Brock wait!” Bucky’s voice. It’s shrill and broken. Like he’d been crying.

Brock doesn’t listen to Bucky. He growls, staring down his ugly face at Steve. Steve’s jaw is clenched, his eyes staring right back. He’s trying to find footing, trying to find a way to get out of Brock’s hold, but the man’s pure muscle and not afraid to kill. Steve isn’t a killer. It holds him back and puts Brock at better odds.

“I’ve always protected him,” Brock says, “before you came ‘round and took him from me!” Brock pulls Steve away from the wall and punches him down. Steve feels his lip bust open.

“Brock!” Bucky shrieks.

“Get back, Bucky!” Brock circles Steve like a lion. “I shoulda done this the day we met your sorry ass. I’m gonna beat you till your face looks just like mine.”

Steve scrambles up. He jumps the couch. Bucky’s paralyzed, eyes wide. He’s breathing fast, too fast for anyone’s healthy standards. Steve knows how that feels, he sees the way Bucky’s wrapping his fingers around his throat. Panic attack! Bucky’s having a panic attack!

Steve lurches forward, trying to get past Brock to calm Bucky down but Brock’s there, quick as lightning. He swings a knee into Steve’s stomach and the world spins. Steve’s not trained for this. He’s big, yes, but he lifts weights! And a lot of his muscle definition has wasted away since he was kidnapped. He hardly even has abs anymore. Steve gags, his stomach getting acquainted with his throat.

Brock wastes no time in kicking Steve with steel-toed boots. Steve goes flying onto the ratty carpet. He gasps, trying to find purchase and air. He’s dizzy, bile is in his mouth and the next kick from Brock sends it spewing to the floor. He claws away, gasping through lungs that have long since given up.

“Oh not so fast, scrub.” Brock grabs Steve’s sweats and they go down. Steve’s eyes widen. He’s not wearing underwear. Steve curls up into a ball, hiding his vagina. He cups it, taking the beating from Brock’s boots as he slams them down again and again over Steve’s spine.

Steve hears a scream and then glass shatter. He coughs up blood and more vomit. He turns. Bucky’s on top of Brock, but he’s not punching. He’s screaming. Stop it stop it stop it!

Brock shoves him off and yanks Steve’s ankle. Steve’s body goes exposed and Brock gasps.

“The fuck is—you’re a bitch ?!”

Steve grabs his sweats and hastily slips them back on, groaning with every motion. The world’s still spinning and his stomach is ready to spew again. His back sears, hot irons pressed against it. He feels like he’s going to die.

“You’ve got a—no wonder you wanted this, Buck. She’s a bitch!”

“I’m not a bitch.” Steve’s voice is steel on steel. It wheezes out in a painful rush of glass shattering between his throat and vomit churning in his stomach.

“He’s a man, Brock.” Bucky’s voice is steady. Steve looks up. Bucky’s holding a knife. “And don’t you dare touch him.”

“You can’t see what she’s done to you?!”

“He.”

“She’s poisoned yer mind, Bucky! Want’s you to be some kind of fucked up superhero! Killin’ only bad guys? Holdin’ you back from good hunts? She’s all wrong for you!”

Stop ,” Bucky growls, “calling Steve a she .”

“You know, I was gonna settle for fuckin’ yer ass, but since you’ve got a nice pretty pussy, I’m gonna fuck that. Then I’m peel yer skin off and watch you decay till you got bones left.” Brock takes a step forward, unafraid of Bucky.

It’s with a harrowing realization that Steve realizes Brock was never under Bucky’s control. He’d followed along because of his love for Bucky. Now with his own chance at Bucky, he’ll do anything to remove Steve from the picture. It’s almost not even personal. Brock’s just desperate.

And Bucky? He’s conflicted. Steve can see it in how he hesitates. How he trembles with the knife. He’s not sure of what he’s doing and everything’s going too fast for him to get a grip on the situation. He’s crying, trembling and scared—just like Steve.

Brock grabs Steve’s ankles and starts trying to pry his legs open. Steve kicks out, flailing and twisting his body to get away, Brock undoes his belt and Steve breaks out into a cold sweat. He coughs up a metallic taste and spits up at Brock. Brock just growls, backhanding Steve with a gold ring. Steve feels the way his cheek busts open, warm blood spilling down.

“Brock! Stop it!”

“Come over here and make me, Buck.”

“Brock!”

Steve kicks out, getting a good hit on Brock’s head. He scrambles away, getting up and running across the room. He’s disoriented and he stumbles, crashing into the table by the couch. He goes falling and the bone rattling shake he feels when he hits the floor is enough to make the world fizzle. He blinks slowly, trying to breathe and find his balance. Brock walks easily. Bucky gets between them, holding the knife out.

“Don’t. Touch. Him.”

Brock blinks, a look of complete astonishment on his face. Had Bucky ever denied him before? Or had it only been Steve he’d denied Brock of?

“You gonna kill me, Bucky?” Brock takes a step forward. He lets the knife press to his chest. Steve goes still, watching. “Do it.” Brock tenses his pectoral and a drop of blood forms. “Do it, cause that’s the only way I’m gonna stop.”

Bucky whimpers. He drops the knife and clutches himself. “Please don’t!”

Brock gently moves Bucky out of the way and Steve’s body tenses. He starts trying to move away, crab-walking backwards until he hits the wall. He slides up it but Brock’s walking his way.

“See, pussy-boy, he loves me. He’ll let me kill ya. How does that feel? Stings, huh?”

Steve tries to run but Brock grabs him. He’s shoved into the wall and kneed a few times until he’s gasping and puking once more.

“Rejection hurts, don’t it?” Brock backhands him. “Feels like someone’s smacking ya!” He grabs Steve’s face, his fingers digging into Steve’s eye sockets and bashes his head back into the wall. Steve’s vision goes blurry and a haze of red smears over them. His legs give out. He doesn’t understand why Bucky isn’t fighting back. Was this truly Bucky’s choice? He’d said he didn’t want anyone to hurt Steve. Had it been a lie? Is this how Steve dies? Raped and beaten by a vindictive lover of Bucky’s? Steve suddenly can’t feel anything anymore. The world is turning redder and redder, but the spinning sensation is gone. The pain is gone. He doesn’t want to die. God, he’s so scared. He’s so fucking scared.

He wishes Teddy were here now. He wishes he’d kept working out or running. He wishes he’d been stronger. He’d been strong once. He’d stabbed Jack. He’d been bigger then, peak male form because Steve was that strange somewhere in the middle where he wanted to look as masculine as he could because that’s just what he was but he also knew it’s not where he began.

Steve feels his sweats getting yanked and he grabs them, trying to pull against Brock’s yanking. He looks up, the room spinning and blood trickling into his eyes, or maybe from his eyes. Steve’s not sure anymore. Bucky’s on the floor, curled up. He’s trembling and Steve’s positive the screaming is him.

“I’m gonna make a mess of you,” Brock whispers into Steve’s ear. “You bitch.”

Steve gives up. If this is how he dies, it’s deserved. Betrayed by the wolves he thought were his friends. He closes his eyes, braces himself for the intrusion that he’ll undoubtedly feel. Is there a God? He hopes so. He’s so scared of dying. He’s so scared of forgetting Bucky’s smile, the way he felt pressed against him at night. He’s scared of forgetting the softness of Bucky’s hair or the coarse feelings of his fingers.

But his sweats don’t get yanked again. He doesn’t feel hands or feet beating him anymore. He opens his eyes and sees Jack and Natasha. Jack’s face is unreadable, but Natasha’s is aflame with anger. Steve looks to her blade and blinks—there’s blood.

He looks down at the crumpled mess on the floor. Brock’s face is slack, his eyes open and staring off into the distance. Blood is pooling all around him. Bucky’s also on the floor, crying still. Steve thinks he hears him whispering something about a broken promise. There’s a howling in Steve’s ears. One that he’s not sure is voices or just what happens after your head’s bashed a few times.

“You okay, pretty boy?” Natasha cups Steve’s cheek. “He’s bleeding bad. Get the first-aid.”

Jack goes. He steps over Brock’s lifeless form like he’d meant nothing to him.

“I broke my promise,” Bucky says. Now Steve’s sure of what he’s hearing. “I broke my promise. I broke my promise. I broke my promise.”

“He called Jack,” Natasha says. She’s probably answering Steve’s look of confusion. “When he couldn’t stop Brock, he called Jack.”

“Oh. So—how’d—”

“Shh, don’t talk. Your cop friend is fine. I’m going to prison, but he’s fine.”

“Where—”

“I’m here, Steve,” Teddy says. His face is bruised and he’s limping. “Natasha told me everything.”

Steve’s body goes rigid. “What? N-no! No you—”

“I told him that me, Brock and Jack are the Silent Soldiers. We’ve held you and Bucky captive since the beginning of summer. Took you both from that house that night.”

Steve’s eyes widen. But that’s not what happened! Steve shakes his head. He’s so confused. The world’s still spinning. He sees Teddy’s blond hair and how he gingerly helps Bucky into a sitting position. He watches Teddy wrap a one of those blankets cops always have around him.

“I called backup,” Teddy says. “I only let her in—cause I’m not a very good cop and you were in danger. Like—immediate.”

Steve can’t find words. They flitter around his head and then fly into the air.

“And I promised to cooperate.”

“Killing your partner wasn’t in the negotiation though,” Teddy says.

“He was going to kill Steve.” Natasha strokes her fingers through Steve’s hair. “Pretty boy, I’ve always known about you. About you .”

Steve’s jaw goes slack.

“I heard what Brock said. Don’t you ever think you’re not man enough.” She kisses Steve’s forehead and hugs him. “Don’t let Bucky go. You mean everything to him.” She kisses Steve’s cheek and then stands up.

Jack comes back with the first-aid. He goes to work, silent as the grave.

“She killed him,” Steve says. It’s all starting to catch up, slow and in murky colors, but he’s starting to figure out what just happened. “You’ve turned yourself in? You and Natasha?”

Jack nods. He runs alcohol over the gash on Steve’s head and Steve hisses.

“Why?”

Jack looks to Brock’s body. “Because it’s the right thing to do.”

Steve looks up at Teddy. He looks more worried than a chicken in a slaughter house. Natasha’s sitting by Bucky, stroking his head and whispering soft words to him. They hug, and Bucky starts crying again.

“She said she’d been kind to you—aside from the threat thing.” Teddy shrugs. “I really am a bad cop. I didn’t even know they’d put you in your house. Fuck, I’m such a bad cop.”

“She’s been the kindest,” Steve says, smiling.

Natasha looks over and winks. Steve allows himself to relax into Jack as he works on cleaning his wounds. He looks to Bucky, watching the way his wild eyes focus on Brock. He starts shaking and pushes his face into Nat’s body. She holds him like a mother to a child. Perhaps that’s been her role all along. Steve’s never known. This whole world was there in front of him, and yet he’d never allowed himself to explore it. He doesn’t regret it though. Killing is wrong. Torture is vile. But he wishes he could’ve known Natasha better than he got. Jack too.

“I’ve gotta put you both in the back of my car before backup comes,” Teddy says, “I’m really sorry.”

“It’s fine,” Natasha says. She comes back over to Steve and cups his face. “You take care of him, okay? He needs you.”

“He needs you too,” Steve whispers.

Natasha shakes her head. “He stopped needing me the second I killed Brock for him. You’re his life now.” She stands up, smiling and offering her wrists to Teddy. Jack follows behind. He casts one look at Brock’s body, winces and then leaves. It was the only pain Steve would see on Jack’s face, but it was pain. He’d watched his lover die, even knew it was the right thing to do. Steve looks to Bucky. Will that be Steve’s fate? To put Bucky down when he gets too uncontrollable? Or had this been the moment to sever his past and his future. Steve doesn’t want to change him anymore. But Natasha took that decision away with the blade she’d cut across Brock’s throat. What will happen now?

Bucky crawls into Steve’s lap. His cheeks are splotchy, eyes swollen. Tears silently spill down his face. He looks ruined.

“I broke my promise,” Bucky says.

“It wasn’t your fault. You couldn’t stop him from hurting me.”

“Not you. I mean—yes—I broke that promise too. Brock was—I knew what he was, but I loved him too. Not like you. My brother. He was family. I knew I couldn’t kill him—so she did for me.” Bucky closes his eyes. “God—Steve—what if he’d killed you? Would I—could I have let that happen?”

“Shh, no Buck. You’d’ve stepped in. I know you would’ve. You just needed time to process it all.” Steve strokes his hands through Bucky’s greasy hair. He hears sirens outside, more and more.

“You know—I thought Nat hated you. I thought—I mean she said such awful things.”

Steve furrows his brow.

“She’d been testing me—figuring me out about how far I’d go for you. I guess this was the answer she wanted.”

“What do you mean?”

“She threatened to kill you, said she would if you couldn’t reel this whole cop thing in. She’d lied. She was trying to get me to act.”

“Why?” Steve eyes flutter. He tries to understand, but his mind’s still catching up and his body is battered and bruised. It all sounds so complicated.

“She wanted me out of their life and wanted to make sure you were how I got out. So she was pushing me. That’s all.”

“She wants you to stop?” Steve’s heart stills, anxious to hear the words.

“I guess. But what if I can’t? I’ve got such a shot now but—but I’m so addicted, Steve.” Bucky grabs Steve’s shirt, fisting into the fabric. “I’m so scared if I don’t hurt them—they’ll hurt me.”

“Baby,” Steve’s face warms. With a smile, he strokes his hand along Bucky’s jaw and down his throat. “They won’t hurt you. I’ll protect you.”

“And I’ll protect you.” Bucky sits up, cupping Steve’s face. “I—I never want to see you get hurt again.”

The doors open, cops and firemen come in. They pull Bucky away. Steve gets an oxygen mask over his face and he’s being lifted onto a stretcher. His sides scream out, his hands fly to his private parts, even though he knows he’s wearing his sweats again. He’s so embarrassed suddenly. He’s terrified the doctors will use she and he knows he’ll be asked questions he doesn’t want to answer. Bucky’s getting wrapped in countless blankets. Cops are talking to him in words Steve doesn’t understand. People are taking pictures of the shack, bagging evidence and taking finger samples. Bucky and Steve’s DNA are all over here, but Natasha and Jack will say this is where they’d been held captive. Steve knows Natasha has it all figured out. Teddy’ll be hailed a hero. Steve hopes Billy will be proud of him. Teddy’s a good guy.

As he’s being loaded into the ambulance, Steve looks over at Teddy’s cop car. It’s busted in on the front. Steve wonders how he drove it up here like that, all battered like Steve’s body. How it all worked. Then he’s closing his eyes and sleep overcomes him.  


Steve wakes up to Bucky’s snoring. He’s cold, despite the blankets and Bucky’s body against his. The room is dark, the blinds drawn. He hears soft beeping and looks up to see a heart monitor and an IV bag. That’s why his hand is so damn cold.

“Hey man,” someone says

Steve looks into the darkness and sees the shape of a man. A soft light comes on near the bed. It’s Sam. He’s got dark circles under his eyes but relief smooths the lines of his brow. He smiles, a soft glow coming from his skin.

Steve smiles, not wanting to speak because he doesn’t want to wake Bucky.

“You know—you should’a told me you’d been kidnapped.” There’s a light tone in Sam’s voice but his eyes betray how worried he is. “We would’ve done something sooner.”

“It—it’s hard to explain.” Steve winces when Bucky stirs. He wraps an arm around Bucky and kisses his forehead. Bucky’s pinched brow smooths out and he stills.

“I guess that’s why you two fell so fast, huh?”

Steve looks up.

“Cause of that whole—experience. Nothin’ like trauma to bring people together. I thought—I thought you were being stupid.”

“Wow. Thanks.”

“No! No, I’m sorry. I just—you meet a guy and you’re moving in with him? I had no idea what happened to you two.”

Steve’s stomach drops. You two . Bucky’s the murderer and now he gets to play the role of the victim. Steve looks at his boyfriend, his heart warming. This is their chance though—a clean start. Steve wants to break away from what’s all happened but, he also doesn’t want to push Bucky again. Uncertainty hangs in the air like dust, all around, floating in and out of Steve’s view. He can try to ignore it, but when he breathes in, he feels it tickle the back of his throat.

“They’re searchin’ the house, ya know? Got a warrant.”

Steve breaks out in a cold sweat, adrenaline pumping his heart. “What?!” His bark wakes Bucky. Bucky looks up with hazy eyes, unfocused and innocent. He looks to Sam and his face goes impassive.

“They’ve got a warrant to search our house,” Steve says.

“What? No. No I’ve got—”

“Sex toys,” Steve says, “lot’s of really embarrassing sex toys.” He blushes but the last thing he needs Bucky to blurt is that there’s a dead body in the backyard. Steve doesn’t condone it, but he certainly doesn’t want Bucky to be taken away especially after how far Nat and Jack went to give them a real shot at life.

Sam snorts. “They’re looking for how those three kept you monitored. Wires and recordings. Stuff like that.”

Bucky relaxes a little. Steve doesn’t. There’s still human meat in the fridge and a dead body in the garden. If they find it, what will they think?

“So—what’s the verdict on me?” Steve asks.

“You’ve got some broken ribs and some internal bruising. They’re going to keep you for a bit to make sure you’re not bleeding anywhere and then they’ll send you home. No surgery needed or anything like that. So just relax, okay? We can talk about the rest later.”

“The rest?” Steve starts sweating again. Bucky reaches up and brushes his sticky bangs off his forehead.

“Press got word about you guys. About when you were taken? Peggy’s—well she’s a mess.”

“Is she—is she mad at me?”

Sam blinks, his brow rising. He brings his hands up in front of his chest and shakes his head.

“What? No man. She’s upset, but not at you. You didn’t kill Sharon.”

Bucky did .

“Look,” Sam continues, “just sleep okay? Enjoy each other. Teddy’s gonna come ‘round to watch you guys, just to make sure. Mainly it’s so we can keep press out of your room. Call me if you need anything, okay? I’ll bring some board games and movies. We’ll make your stay fun.”

“Thank you.” Steve didn’t say that. He looks down, realizing that Bucky’s the one who said it. Bucky thanked Sam. It wasn’t a big thing, not really, but to Steve? This spoke volumes. When raising children, people always taught them to be respectful and find their manners. Bucky had always been the shy child who didn’t thank anyone because he was too afraid of them. Bucky thanking Sam for Steve’s care—that was something and Steve would cherish it. He scooped Bucky into his arms, kissed his crown and inhaled salty skin and greasy hair.

“I’ll catch you two later.” Sam waved, heading out.

Bucky scooted up the bed, pressing his forehead to Steve’s. They stayed there, silently rubbing their noses against each other and almost kissing but not quite. Lazy opening and closing of their mouths, lips brushing lips, but not actual kisses. Just enjoying each other. Bucky had to know what gift he’d been given. He was smiling, there was an excitement beneath his skin and it vibrated into Steve. They had a chance to do something different now. They could go anywhere, be anything, do anything. Steve wanted to cling to that idea of normalcy, but if Bucky didn’t want it, he couldn’t force it. He’d decided that, and he was sticking firm. He’d love his murdering boyfriend all the same. If that’s the path Bucky wants, that’s the path they’d both go down.

Right now, Steve is in a bed with his lover and for now, he’ll put his fears aside and bask in the beating heart in front of him.

 

Chapter Text

Many Months Later

It feels so good. Steve arches his back, hissing when Bucky sucks just a bit harder on his clit. Steve’s eyes slide shut, his tongue at the corner of his mouth. He grips the bedsheets, sweat cooling on his body. Steve can’t remember the last time Bucky had gone down on him like this, devouring him with a force that had been sleeping for so long. Bucky’s got his arms wrapped around Steve’s legs. His fingers gently caress Steve’s stomach, ticking Steve enough to keep accidently jerking back into the bed. He doesn’t stop and Steve doesn’t want him to.

After everything they’d been through. After Brock and all the fucking media. Fucking on a hot night with the windows open and the grasshoppers outside is a welcome change.

“G-God!” Steve pushes Bucky’s face into his pussy, forcing Bucky to suck harder, lick up inside more. He’ll come like this, Bucky’s fingers casually stroking his abs, Bucky’s tongue inside a part of Steve he never thought he’d be okay with even acknowledging. When had it all happen? It’s such a blur now to Steve. Steve remembers nights where he’d try to masturbate, only become revolted at the idea of slipping his fingers inside his vagina. He remembers playing with plump breasts, tugging at his own nipples and staring at a man’s chest. He hadn’t even been aroused. He wanted to be the man in the picture.

“Ah! Oh fuck!”

He’s on his back now, legs spread out, a man between them and he’s relentless with how far he pushes his tongue inside Steve. He even slips fingers in, pumping them as he goes back to sucking on Steve’s enlarged clit. Steve yelps before biting his lip.

It all feels so silly now—looking back. Maybe it’s because Steve’s a man with a sculpted, masculine chest, hair under his arm pits, and a dusting on his lower abdomen. Maybe because people don’t look at him and see a giant girl, but just a tall guy. Maybe if he still breasts, a tiny clit and a high voice—maybe he wouldn’t feel like his previous tears had been silly.

“Steve?”

“Hm?”

“You stopped thrusting so—am I doin’ somethin’ wrong?”

“What?” Steve leans up, cupping Bucky’s face. “Babe—no. No—God no!”

Bucky licks his shiny lips. Steve notices how flushed he is. He’s beautiful like this—alive and the best damn lover Steve’s ever had. And to think he used to be a serial killer. They still had bad nights, bad days, bad weeks. They’re at least working through it. Even if that means Steve has to sit through all the Saw movies so Bucky can get hard enough to want to fuck him. After Bucky stopped killing, he lost all desire to fuck Steve unless he’s hyped up on adrenaline from classic torture porn. Steve’s been looking into fake murder pornos. Sometimes he’s not sure if they’re actually fake. Still, he gets them and gives them to Bucky. They fuck, Bucky doesn’t kill anyone. It works out in the end.

“Would you love me if I had breasts?”

Bucky smiles, he reaches out, pinching one of Steve’s nipples. “You ain’t fat, Steve.”

“What?!” Steve laughs, rolling his eyes. “No, I don’t mean like that. Ones like Peggy’s.” Steve’s heart squeezes when he says her name. After the truth came out—well the truth at least about Steve having been there at Sharon’s murder—Peggy couldn’t look at Steve. She said she didn’t hate him, but that it’d take time for her to come around again. Angie still comes around, but Peggy’s not spoken to Steve in a long, long time. Steve understands. He doesn’t think it’s anything personal, maybe a little. But Angie said to give her space. So Steve is.

“You’re not a woman.” Bucky says it so bluntly, so absolutely resolute, like a man professing water is wet. It makes Steve tear up. Bucky, even after having relentlessly gone down on Steve, sees nothing but a man in Steve. It’s not that Steve doubted—Bucky’s never questioned it, he’s never slipped up, and he’s never said anything was wrong about it. Steve said he was male, and so Bucky had agreed.

“But—hypothetically—if I was a woman? Would you’ve fallen in love with me?”

Bucky considers it for a moment. He reaches a hand out between Steve’s thighs. He rubs his thumb along Steve’s clit, his lashes soft and dark against his cheeks. Steve’s lips part, he grazes his teeth along his lip, but makes no sound.

“I would fall in love with you, in any universe, under any circumstance, as any person.” He chokes, a miserable attempt at stopping a sob. When he looks back up again, his eyes are wet. Steve gasps, and he knows it’s not because Bucky’s making him feel so good between his thighs. “You make me human.”

Steve spreads his legs more, licking his lips. “So no matter what I look like—you’ll always love me?”

Bucky cocks a brow, but he slips between Steve’s legs, naked and hard. He sinks into Steve easily, both of them moaning. Steve mouths along Bucky’s jaw. He curls his hands along the curve of Bucky’s ass and starts fingering his lover’s hole. Bucky hums, nibbling soft at Steve’s throat.

“I am a man,” Steve says.

“Yes.”

They thrust softly, quiet but for the grasshoppers and the sheets.

“But I’m unique too,” Steve finally says.

Bucky pauses, his brow furrowed.

Steve laughs, kissing Bucky’s lips. “I’m feelin’ dirty. Would you get a knife and cut around my pussy?”

Bucky has never moved to the bedside stand so fast.

Steve sees the glint of silver in the moonlight. He spreads his legs, resting them on either side of Bucky’s hips. Bucky trails the knife along Steve’s clit, the flat side. It’s cool, and Steve’s shivering. He bites his lip, staring up into Bucky’s eyes.

“Not too deep. Just little love scratches.”

“I’ll just break skin. Don’t worry, babe. I gotcha.”

Steve lays back, hissing when the blade touches where his thigh meets his vagina. It bites into his skin, but the pain doesn’t hurt. It makes his clit twitch and his lips pulse. He strokes himself, slow. Bucky growls, bending to lick up the trickle of blood.

Fuck, Steve never thought knifes had a place in sex till he met Bucky. He’d been so wrong.


Steve winces the next day. His thighs are stinging from where Bucky had lightly cut into the skin. It’s hard to keep his legs closed and he really wishes he wasn’t wearing pants. But he is. Because that’s what you do when you’re applying for a job as a schoolteacher. It’d be the absolute worst impression to not wear pants at a job interview where he’ll be teaching children.

“Mr. Rogers?” a black man steps into the hall. He’s in an olive blazer with khaki pants. Steve’s not sure many could pull it off, but the other man absolutely does. “Principal Fury.”

“Nice to meet you,” Steve shakes the man’s hand.

“Let’s get to it huh?” he claps Steve on the back, and Steve smiles. He’s not bad in interviews. Peggy used to tell him he had a certain earnest quality that no matter how hard he tried, he could never rid himself of it.

“Have a seat.” Principal Fury sits behind his desk. He looks over Steve’s resume and portfolio. “Your art’s nice.”

“Thank you sir. I try not to stare at it too much.”

“Why’s that?”

“Because then I’ll just see all its faults.”

Fury frowns, shrugging. “I don’t see any.”

Steve smiles. He doesn’t like to argue with people, especially when they’re the one in charge of whether he’ll have disposable income or not. Steve’s art booth had never quite taken off. People bought things, absolutely. After the Silent Soldiers were apprehended, people started coming around Steve for the wrong reasons. They wanted to know what it was like to be kidnapped and tortured. Lots of reporters asked questions that got a little too close to the actual truth and Steve didn’t want to be around that. After that happened, he made Bucky burn all the leftover human remains in the house and drive them all the way to New York to an old cemetery to get rid of the bones.

“You never graduated college.”

“I—” Steve’s stomach drops. He adjusts his collar, his tie too tight. “It was—”

“A guy in your position—with all that happened. I understand. Do you ever want to go back?”

It took Steve a moment to realize Principal Fury was talking about the Silent Soldiers and Steve’s “capture.” He’d thought about college again during the months after Natasha and Jack turned themselves in. He’d sit there, watching the news as their trial unfolded and people threatened them with all sorts of horrible deaths. Natasha acted like a wild, feral psycho to the camera and the people around her. Jack, hardly even blinked. Natasha wore many masks. The irony was that she had never worn one when killing. She’d worn masks in front of Bucky, in front of Jack and hell—even Steve. She put on a new one each and every day. After Bucky told Steve of what Natasha pretended to threaten Bucky over, it all clicked just how much Natasha cared about Bucky.

She needed to push him to get him to act—or in this case—stop acting. She pretended to leverage Steve’s life as a way to see how far Bucky was willing to go in a desperate attempt at getting him out. People didn’t just do that if they didn’t love another person wildly. Natasha still remains an enigma to Steve.

“Mr. Rogers?”

“S-sorry. You got me thinking—” he winced, “—I mean yes, yes I think about it. I just want some kind of normalcy for me and my boyfriend.”

“You’re not married?”

“Not—yet?” Steve isn’t really sure how he should answer that. He’s never thought about marrying Bucky. He’s been content in their relationship.

“An experience like that, I’m surprised you and Barnes even stayed.”

Steve doesn’t like that the interview is turning more into a way to talk about the Silent Soldiers than about Steve’s credentials. “Have you  looked through my entire portfolio? I know I don’t have a degree, but I’m good. I’m really good and if you just give me a chance—”

“I’ve already decided to hire you.”

Steve’s heart sputters and his eyes almost bulge from his face.

“Peggy Carter put in a good word.”

“Peggy?”

Fury smiles, nodding. “She thinks you’re the kindest, most patient artist she’s ever met. And if you’re going to be dealing with kids, you need patience, and kindness.”

Steve’s mouth is dry. He thought she hated him.

“I’ll have Miss Hill, my administrative assistant, start on your paperwork. Can you start Monday?”

Steve stands up when Principal Fury does. His brain is still whirring from the man’s words. Peggy. Steve stumbles, knocking into the seat he’d just been on. He and Fury meet eyes and for what feels like a full minute, Steve’s prepared for the man to change his mind. Fury just smirks and gestures for them to leave the office.

Steve has a job. It hits him on the way back home. He’s nearly in tears when he pulls into the driveway and sees Bucky out in his garden, beds of lettuce, vines of red tomatoes. Bucky used to be a killer. Steve used to be a starving artist. Now one cultivates life and the other will cultivate money.

Things are changing. Things are happening. Steve couldn’t be happier.

He and Bucky almost don’t make it to the bed before they’re both naked and trembling.


Steve’s been dozing in and out while Bucky watches Jeepers Creepers. He’s got a hand in his pants and he’s slowly stroking himself while the demon thing or whatever it is ruthlessly hacks at these kids. Steve watches the way Bucky strokes himself. He’s not turned on. He’s too tired, but he likes watching Bucky’s hand. He likes hearing the soft gasp that passes Bucky’s lips when he surprises even himself at how good he can make his body feel. Steve’s got his arms crossed, one leg on Bucky’s thigh. His eyes are open now, a smirk on his face.

Bucky stops when he notices Steve watching.

“You didn’t need to stop.”

“It doesn’t—I mean—”

“You haven’t killed someone in months, Buck. I’m so fucking proud of you.”

Bucky cringes, his hand balling up into a fist. Steve hears a girl scream on the TV, but he doesn’t turn to look. He watches Bucky, the way his skin seems a little too tight and his face a little too clammy.

“You haven’t, right? Because after all that Nat and Jack—”

“No!” Bucky curls into the far end of the couch. He balls up, so Steve pulls his leg away. He wants to give Bucky space. Bucky’s a cornered, stressed animal in a new environment and it doesn’t matter that he’s supposedly had time to get used to it. Bucky’s addicted to murder and death. A recovering alcoholic is still called an alcoholic. Bucky will always be a murderer. Steve can’t change that about him. “But I want to. God Steve—I want to so badly.”

“I know.” Steve looks over at the movie. He wants to turn it off now. It doesn’t feel right to have on as background noise while Bucky starts crying.

“I think about killin’ you all the time. It’s gotten so much worse.”

Things like that used to scare Steve. They don’t anymore. He knows, deep down, Bucky won’t ever hurt him. He may bite a little too hard, cut a little too deep, but he’d never kill Steve. Steve slinks off the couch. He kneels in front of Bucky, putting a hand on Bucky’s knee.

“How?”

Bucky’s eyes widen.

“How would you kill me?”

“Steve—”

“I wanna know. Tell me. Tell me and touch yourself all the way through it, baby.” He gets Bucky to sit back in the couch, his legs spread. Steve’s at his feet, biting his lips and touching his chest in a seductive way, all for show. Bucky slips his fingers beneath his waistband again.

“I’d take my time with you. You’re too pretty to brutalize. I’d probably suck your clit till your hearts ready to explode all on its own.”

Steve smiles. He likes that Bucky feels comfortable enough to call it a clit. Steve used to not, and Bucky respected that. It’s weird how things change, how Steve’s changed.

“God, baby. I wanna slip a knife in your belly and watch how long it takes you to bleed. I wanna make you come all the way through it, so you only feel good. You deserve that. No torture, just a bunch of sex.”

Steve laughs. He slips his hand into Bucky’s pants, meeting Bucky’s fingers. “What else?”

“Oh—oh fuck.” Bucky drops his head back, letting Steve’s hand take over.

Steve touches the tip, pushes his nail into the tiny little hole and watches Bucky’s whole body convulse.

“Wanna make a little hole in your chest, pack your belly wound so you stay alive longer. Wanna touch your beating heart with my finger. I could—I’ve got—ah—I’ve got tools.”

“Tools, huh?” Steve spreads precoma down Bucky’s shaft. He’s getting wet and swollen himself. Dirty talk isn’t calling Bucky daddy in this house. It’s asking how he’d get murdered or letting Bucky take a knife to his skin. It’s ruthless, a bit mad and more than horrifying if someone’s not part of it. And no one is—no one but them. People wouldn’t see Bucky’s words as the biggest love confession on the planet. To care while killing, to make sure Steve isn’t brutalized and that he feels good. Steve sees it for what it is. Bucky loves him. He loves him so much that he’d sacrifice the way he likes to kill for a way that he thinks would make Steve feel okay to go through with it. It almost makes Steve wish he didn’t have to die from it. He’d like to see the way Bucky took care of him if Steve did let Bucky kill him.

“I’d suck your nipples, letting my finger keep touching your heart, just—touching it—as it beats, softer and softer. God, baby, I wouldn’t stop touching you.”

Steve’s entirely wet between his thighs. Heat pulsates off him and it takes all his strength not to slip out of his clothes and tell Bucky to kill him like this right now. Murder kink. Who would of fucking thought?

And to think he’d just been hired to teach schoolchildren.

“I’d fuck your body.”

Steve pauses, his gaze snapping up to Bucky. Bucky’s face is blank, nothing but the heat in his cheeks to show that he’s even alive.

“I’ve always—I never have but—but I’d fuck yours. I love you too much not to.”

“You’d need a lot of lube.”

“I’d fuck you after you died, quick, you’d still be wet from how much I’d be sucking that pretty pussy of yours.”

“Fuck me now, Buck.”

Bucky bites his lip. His hips betray him as he keeps thrusting up into Steve’s fist.

“Fuck me now and whisper how bad you wanna kill me. Cause I want it so bad.”

“Me to—to kill you?”

Steve nods. They’ve talked about this, they’ve talked about it over and over to make sure Bucky knows when Steve says it, he doesn’t actually mean it. It’s just nice to help them both get into the mood, Bucky especially.

“Kill me, Buck. Fuckin’ touch me where no one else has.”

They find themselves in the kitchen, dishes crashing to the floor. Bucky fucks Steve atop them, the glass cutting into Steve’s back. Bucky licks the blood off Steve’s shoulders, the backs of his hands. He tells Steve how beautiful he is when he’s bleeding and Steve can’t help but come over and over again to the idea.


“Have you ever had—empty womb urges?” Angie asks. It pulls Steve out of his coffee, practically pulls him off the entire planet. Yes, yes he has. He grew up wanting a baby. Even in transitioning he wanted a baby. He’d put the idea aside with Bucky, but it’s always been there still, lurking like the darkness that lurks inside Bucky. It’ll never go away.

“I mean, you’re a guy but ya got a womb so—sorry—that wa’supa inappropriate.”

“Yes.” It’s easier than explaining that sometimes friends get to be a little inappropriate with each other. That’s why they’re called friends. Trust is important. “I’ve read some articles about trans pregnancy. Some of the guys feel like it puts him in more control of their identities, some of them get super depressed. I don’t—I don’t know which way I’d go.”

“Ya think Bucky wants kids?”

Steve snorts. Bucky wants kids like he wants a frontal lobotomy.

“Peggy wants kids,” Angie continues. She scratches a mole on her neck, pushing her orange lips together. She’s probably the only person who can wear that shade of lipstick on a regular day and get away with it. “I think she wants us both to carry one at the same time. Kind of like, try to experience the whole magical wonders of childbirth together.”

“Sounds lovely.”

“I think it sounds stupid. What if we both go into labor at’he same time, ya know? Jeeze Louise.”

“I think you’re overanalyzing it.”

“I think you’re not analyzing it enough!” She grabs a handful of forks and knives and starts wrapping them up in napkins. “Still—watchin’ her get fat, seeing her get that glow? She’s already so beautiful.”

“I think if you two have children, you’d be the best moms.”

Before the conversation goes any further, Sam comes in. The bell above the door rings obnoxiously and it grabs both Angie and Steve’s attention. Sam’s face is flushed, sweat on his brow. He collapses into the barstool next to Steve and sighs heavily.

“You okay?”

“I just ran here.”

“Why?”

“They’ve been granted a mistrial. They’re being tried again in Federal Court.”

“What?” Steve’s eyes widen. He thought it was all behind him, watching Nat and Jack lie through their teeth to protect both Steve and Bucky. They’d gotten their story ironclad too. Guilt ravaged Steve like worms ravaged dirt.

“Jury’s tainted. The media’s all over this story so they need a different state to give them something impartial. I just didn’t want you hearin’ it from the news or something. Or worse, from a reporter.”

“God.” Steve drops his head against the counter. “I thought this was gonna be over.”

“Awe, babe,” Angie pats Steve’s back soothingly, “it’s gonna be okay. Ya got us.”

“And me,” a fourth voice says.

Steve opens an eye to see brown curly hair, wide hips and an impeccable painted face. Peggy adjusts her paisley shirt, her pink tongue darting over her matte red lips. Everything is so colorful about her.

“I—I know we haven’t spoken since—well.” She plays with the necklace at her neck. “I’m sorry for pushing you away.”

“I’m sorry for lying.”

“You were scared. You didn’t lie. And it all makes sense—how scared Bucky always was. He—how is he?”

Steve blinks, startled that Bucky would be brought up when he was—oh right—they think he’s a victim too. Steve swallows roughly, trying to bide his time until he can figure out some kind of dumb lie.

“Adjusting.”

“To always have to watch your back, to always wonder if that was the last day. I’m so sorry.” Peggy steps forward. Sam scoots off his stool to allow Peggy in to hug Steve. She’s not soft like Angie. She’s hard muscle and rough hands. Steve gets the urge to paint her like a woman out of the 30’s while the men were at war and the women were left to take over the workforce. She’d have been one of those ladies, working a factory job with grime on her face and she’d have so much pride in it. Steve squeezes her just a bit harder.

“You have nothing to be sorry for,” Steve whispers.

Peggy pulls back. She clears her throat, lifts her chin and then that’s it. Conversation closed. She makes no excuses, pushes nothing further. Straight and to the point.

“You should tell Bucky about the mistrial. I wouldn’t be surprised if reporters start showing up at your house again.” Sam grabs one of Steve’s shoulders, giving it a little squeeze. “Man, fuckin’ dogs to scraps.”

“You calling me scraps?” Steve’s smile is positively smug.

“You’re straight up garbage.”

“Alright. I’ve gotta get home before Bucky has a panic attack. Oh, Peg?”

She raises her brows, watching him.

“Thanks for—for the job.”

“Nick’s an old friend. It was an honor to see him smile at your work the way he did. He rarely smiles.”

Steve nods. He knows what it’s like to bring a smile to a man’s face that is usually stoic or sad.

“I’ll see you guys around.”


“Don’t take this the wrong way,” Teddy says, “but I kinda hope they get tossed into a jurisdiction that’ll go through with the death penalty.”

Bucky stays quiet. He stares at his spaghetti, poking the meatballs around the plate. Steve’s remained friends with Teddy since he was assigned to watch over Bucky and Steve. Their adventure at the old shack kind of solidified that friendship.

“They’re still people,” Steve says.

“Sure, people who kill and torture others for fun. Romanov’s God damned terrifying. She’s all calm and collected one second, turning herself in—then she’s screaming and attacking reporters who get too close.”

“She crashed your car too.” Bucky looks over, watching.

“She crashed my car too!” Teddy slumps back against the sofa. “Still—I don’t entirely hate her. Is that wrong?”

“I don’t hate her,” Bucky says.

“They call that Stockholm Syndrome.” Teddy says it so confidently that it makes Steve almost forget that Bucky wasn’t the victim. Steve was, and sometimes, still is. Is it Stockholm that’s made him love Bucky so much? At this point, it doesn’t even matter. Steve believes it’s real love, and that’s all he needs.

“Reporters haven’t been bothering either of you, right?” Teddy shoves a meatball into his mouth, chomping down.

“I got stopped for a quick quote at the grocery, but it’s nothing like last time.” Steve puts his plate down. He can’t eat anymore. Angie’s words have left seeds that he’s not sure if he wants them to grow. They’re down in his stomach, little dreams of a womb filled with a baby. And he can. That’s the scariest, most wonderful part of the whole thing. He could have a baby with Bucky. It could have Bucky’s eyes and Steve’s mouth, it could be artistic like Steve or have crazy murder impulses like Bucky.

Steve chokes on his water. Suddenly the idea isn’t so romantic. But that doesn’t make him want it any less. He watches the way Bucky eats. He’s unrefined in the way he handles his fork. He stabs at his food, not just scooping but harshly stabbing. He’s killing it with each bite. There’s nothing graceful about Bucky Barnes. He’s all hard lines, heavy scowls and gnashing teeth. Even when he has his prosthetic off, he’s still just hard lines and a scowl. Steve finds himself smiling, picturing what a baby Bucky would look like.

Fuck.

“You want kids, Teddy?” Steve blurts, because of course he does. He’s desperate for anyone to look at him, tell him he’s not allowed to do it, or that it’s a dumb idea. He’s got his feet right next to the ledge and he’s trying so hard to make someone pull him back. Fear takes hold in him, weighing his heart down. He’s too afraid of what the alternative would do to him.

“I mean—maybe?” Teddy blinks furiously, his lips pursed. He coils up into his chunky frame, face scrunching up. “Me n’ Bill’ve never really talked about it.”

Steve notices how still Bucky is. He’s huddled up on the kitchen chair, prosthetic lying next to him. He’s barely eaten anything tonight, but Steve’s absolutely sure he won’t be any more after the idea of children wafted to his ears. And honestly, who is Steve kidding? Bucky with a child? It’s idiotic. Unheard of. Almost blasphemous.

God damn it, why does Steve want a child so bad?

“Do you?” Bucky asks, “want kids, Steve?”

Steve remembers what it feels like to be punched in the gut. It’s a feeling he feels now. He winces, grabbing his body, distantly thinking I have a womb. He bites the inside of his cheek to focus on something other than the doom he feels covering him like an impending storm. When did the room get so cold?

“I—c’mon. We’d be shit parents.” Steve’s never lied so hard through his teeth, and he’d lied to Peggy for nearly a year about Sharon.

Bucky tilts his head to the side. His face remains blank, his fork abandoned. Steve, for lack of anything to do now that the situation has gone more than awkward, gets up and starts cleaning plates. He scrapes the food into the garbage and then begins the task of handwashing.

“We have a dishwasher.” Bucky’s hand is cold against Steve’s hip. He kisses the back of Steve’s neck, nuzzling before moving back.

“I—yeah.” Steve moves robotically over to the dishwasher and fills it up with tonight’s meal.

“I uh—I should go.” Teddy stands up, pointing to the door. Steve wants to scream for him to stay. No! Come play Yahtzee or chess! But Steve chokes on air instead, watching his lifeline leave him with Bucky and his lifeless expression.

“See ya,” Steve whispers, though Teddy’s no longer in the house.

They stare at each other, Steve, guilty and nibbling his lip. Bucky just stares. It’s detached, void of apathy but void of love too. It reminds Steve that Bucky is and always will be a killer. He’ll always fantasize about death and he’ll always be ready to slice into Steve’s supple skin. Would Bucky kill their child? He swears he’d never kill Steve, and Steve believes it. But a baby, unknown and unborn, wouldn’t have the same loyalty earned.

“Is this why you’ve been acting strange?” Bucky’s voice is hoarse.

“What?”

“Why couldn’t you just talk to me?” Bucky takes a step forward, and Steve flinches. Bucky’s lips part, his eyes rounding. “What’re you afraid I’m gonna do?”

“Wh—that’s not—”

“Look at how you’re standing.”

Steve does. He’s recoiled into the corner of the kitchen. His legs are trembling, his arms crossed, but one hand out as if it needs to push someone away. He bites his lip, shame and guilt mixing like sludge in his throat. He tries to swallow it down, but he only coughs.

Talk to me.”

“Oh because you’re so good at talking to me.”

“This isn’t a competition, Steve!” Bucky steps back, taking a deep breath. He keeps his body language relaxed, his only hand on the sink’s lip. “Do you want a baby?”

“I couldn’t ask you to.”

“That’s not an answer, Steve.”

“Well do you?” Steve pulls himself away from the corner. He moves around the table, leaning against the back of a chair. “I mean seriously, Bucky! You were gonna let Nat kill some pregnant lady that one time! Do you have any idea how innocent and vulnerable babies are? That’s like asking you to get some kind of power high off it!”

Bucky scoffs, looking away. It’s only then that Steve takes a moment to consider what he’d said. He’d accused Bucky of not just being a murderer, but a child-killer. Bucky had never done that, at least per Steve’s knowledge. And he had let Wanda and her baby go.

Steve brings his hand up to cover his mouth, eyes wide. He stands there, stupefied and fumbling around in his mind. He can almost hear it rattle as it tries to come up with some way to repair the damage he’d inflicted.

But he never does.

And Bucky doesn’t give him the chance.

Bucky leaves the room, his socks shuffling on the tile. Steve listens to Bucky’s heavy footfalls until he can’t hear them anymore. He gets the soft shuffle of the sliding door to the backyard and the thud as it closes.

Steve collapses into a chair. He drops his face into his hands. He’s a fool. He’s a fool for doubting Bucky. He’s a fool for not trusting him. It doesn’t matter if Steve’s even right. He of all people shouldn’t judge Bucky for who he is. Steve knows exactly what he is, and he’s looked beyond that. He’s accepted it. The most selfish thing Steve’s ever done was choose Bucky. And it seems no matter what, he’ll always choose him.

He gets up, slipping on some flipflops from the front hall and then moves to the back of the house, once outside, he sees Bucky in his garden. Bucky’s pulling dead leaves off the plants, looking them over carefully. He checks the tomatoes, squeezing one ever so gently. Steve smiles. Bucky created all of that by himself. There’d been a dead person beneath that dirt once, but Steve made him dig it up. Bucky had to destroy crop and even after that set back, he’d cultivated this.

“I’m sorry.”

Bucky continues plucking the dead leaves from the vine. He makes his way down a row before turning to Steve. His eyes are watery, lips in a line.

“I know you love me,” Bucky says, “but I also know there’ll be a part of you that never stops fearing me. If I raise my voice, if I get a little too excited—it’s always there. I don’t even know if you see it.”

“Buck—”

“It’s okay, Steve. I’ve long since accepted it.” He shrugs, offering a casual smile. A tear spills over his cheek. “I need you to admit it to yourself too. And then once you have, I need you to understand why I should be the last person you have a child with.”

“No—that’s—”

Bucky moves forward, placing his index finger over Steve’s lips. He smiles, but silent tears still continue to spill over his cheeks. Steve’s heart squeezes. He loves a monster. Something sinister and more evil than good. But Bucky’s love is honest. His heart means well when it comes to Steve. Steve’s his one asterisk in a life lead to kill and inspire fear. Steve had become so used to Bucky that he’d almost forgotten how terrifying it was to see Bucky wield a knife with the intent to kill. It’s been more than a year since Steve last stared Bucky down, horrible mask and all, wondering if that would be his last night. He’d neutered Bucky’s ferocity in his mind, making excuses, amending and belittling the danger that Bucky really is. He can’t anymore. It’s disrespectful to himself and to Bucky.

“Where do we go from here?” Steve asks. He leans his face into Bucky’s hand, kissing the rough pad of a thumb. A thumb capable of tearing into a person’s body without remorse, without the slightest inclination that he feels sorry for the poor sot. Bucky doesn’t ever feel sorry. Not even when he’s apologizing to Steve. Does a sociopath truly love? Or has Bucky convinced himself he’s in love?

“I won’t be angry if you think it’s best to leave me.”

The words make Steve’s knees buckle. He falls into Bucky’s chest, tears stinging his eyes. “No! Don’t—don’t talk like that!”

“Think about it, Steve. About the life you’re gonna have with me—me—you’re always gonna be nervous if I’ve killed the neighbor’s cat. You’re always gonna flinch when you don’t mean to. I’m holdin’ you back, babe.”

“Stop it!” Steve shoves his finger in Bucky’s face, pointing with a menacing glare. “Stop. It.”

“Steve—why do you love me?”

Steve’s trembling, tears blurring his vision so the world is nothing but smeared lines of light and dark. He holds onto Bucky for fear that if he doesn’t, Bucky’ll leave him right here tonight.

“L-lot of reasons.”

“Tell me. Is it because I’m good? Because I’m kind to others and compassionate?”

“Stop!”

“Because I’m selfless? That I could put your needs before my own?”

“Bucky, I said stop it!

“That I’d be a good father, Steve? Is that why you love me?”

“I SAID STOP IT!” Steve shoves Bucky to the ground. Chest heaving, Steve stares down at him, his brow pinched, his cheeks splotchy. He wants to punch Bucky over and over, to scream at him how they’re not that different. Steve’s had a darkness inside him too. He’s been selfish too. He’s no damn saint either. He tired once. He really did. But the thing is—the blunt, harsh reality—

Steve will always choose Bucky Barnes. Always.

“I love you because you’re good for me. I love you because you understand me. And that’s not even about me being trans because who the fuck gives about that! This is about how you get me. About how I like makin’ love to you. About how you know I like my potatoes sprinkled with rosemary. About how you know I hate your cold feet and you wear your fucking socks to bed! It’s all the little fucking things, Bucky! I don’t—yes—yes, I want a child but I don’t need one, Buck. If it’s between you and some kid I don’t even know. It’s you, Buck. It’s always gonna be you.” He offers his hand down. “Don’t you fuckin’ get it? I don’t want a better life. I want the life that has you in it.”

“Even if that means you’ll always be afraid?”

Steve smiles, relief flooding his muscles and pushing the tears from his eyes. He sniffs, nodding. “Even if that means I’ll always be afraid.”

“So we just—pretend I never did those things? That I don’t pay for what I’ve done?”

“You’ll pay, Buck. It just won’t be rottin’ in a cell. I’ve got ideas.”

Bucky blinks, his gaze flicking from Steve’s hand and back to Steve’s face.

“Take my hand, please.”

He does.


“I don’t know, Steve.” Bucky holds his tomato basket closer to him, nibbling his lip. The truck bounces along the road, hitting every pothole and every little rock it can find. Steve smiles though, because the weather is warm out, the docks are full of people and Mystic is finally out of its fear-ridden coma. No serial killers leave the town with that quint small town feel that Steve always wanted it to have. It’s no longer Twin Peaks and now actually Gilmore Girls. Steve likes it like this.

They park, and Steve opens the bed of the truck, setting up everything that got sloshed around in the drive into town. The waves whisper along the beach, boats swaying along. The breeze is nice and Steve likes the taste of salt in the air.

Bucky comes around and plops his tomato basket down in the bed.

“No. That basket goes on the table.”

“What table?”

“The one I brought, doofus!” Steve slides the folding table out of the truck. It used to serve as Steve’s little booth for his art in front of Angie’s. It’s sat in the garage for quite some time now. “Set it up.”

Bucky glares, looking from the table to his prosthetic.

“Oh hush. You’ve picked me up with that arm.” Steve drops the fold-up table on the ground. “I’ll set up the cabana.”

“This is really how you want me to pay it all back?”

“You agreed.”

“I didn’t think there’d be so many—people.”

“The point is to give back to the community of which you stole from, Buck.” Steve feels like he’s talking to one of his students. He smiles. He likes having students. He has a soft spot for one named America. She’s a feisty little girl, hellbent on taking over the world one day. Steve wouldn’t be surprised if she did.

After the table and cabana are up, the couple gets the tomatoes out for show, the lettuce heads and the peppers. Steve puts a few of his paintings up on the side too. Once everything is set up, Steve sits on the bed of the truck, swinging his legs.

“Remember, you talk to them. Not me. I’m just here for support.”

Bucky looks like he’s about to vomit.

People stream over slowly. At first, it’s just a few, but then Bucky starts talking about his chocolate peppers and people start getting interested. Some of the other farmers trade with Bucky. They get a jar of honey for a dozen tomatoes. Bucky actually smiles over that. He looks back at Steve, sunlight in his hair, life in his eyes. Steve sees what Bucky could’ve been had he not suffered what he did. Alive and at his full potential. Bucky sells out of his tomatoes by lunch. Angie comes and drops off sandwiches. He even manages to have a full conversation with her. There’s moments were Steve has to save him, but it’s okay. And this is only the beginning of it all.

Steve thinks back to the list on the refrigerator. He’d carefully crafted it, negotiating with Bucky for each “sentence.” Bucky didn’t have much leverage though when literal blood was on his conscience.

Attend the farmer’s market every Sunday and talk to all the customers.

Offer to cut the grass (for free) for 5 neighbors.

Help Peggy and Angie as they get more and more pregnant.

Sell the shack to a person who needs it, not someone who can just afford it.

Always ask if an elderly person needs help carrying groceries and always hold the door for people.

Walk May Parker’s dog at least once a day (her arthritis is getting bad)

Meet Steve’s mom

The list isn’t final. It’ll get longer and longer until Bucky’s the guy everyone in their community comes to for help. Steve’s goal isn’t punishment. It’s rehabilitation. Bucky was deprived of his goodness. This is Steve’s way of finding it again. And if it’s not there, that’s okay too. Steve accepts that possibility. And even so, Bucky is going to be the most well-liked good-deeded person in Mystic.

Steve slinks off the truck, coming to stand next to Bucky. He kisses him on the cheek once, then on the mouth twice.

“What’s that for?”

“Everything’s gonna work out, Buck. I’ve just got a good feeling.”

Bucky doesn’t smile, but he leans just a little more into Steve and Steve knows somehow that that means he agrees. Bucky doesn’t deserve the chance he’s been given. Steve, for that matter, doesn’t either. But this is the gift they were given by the sacrifices of Jack and Nat. And there’s no turning back from it now. Steve doesn’t think it’s just for Bucky to have a list. Steve has one too. His list starts with his friends and family. Something that may be arguably harder to atone for. But he will. It doesn’t matter if he ever has a baby with Bucky or not. What matters is that Steve’s been entrusted with a damaged soul.

And it’s high time they started rebuilding it.