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He counts a dozen Walkers ambling in front of the hospital, the dark wording having long since faded and chipped into a faintly grey nonsense. It had been a high tech hospital, that much he can tell. There were unmarked, government issued vehicles around the mostly empty parking lot, and Bucky had scouted the place before, had seen inside the windows. The place was weird then and it's weird now.

 

Last time, he had seen actual, real life people walking around in the halls, but two weeks ago he had seen them leave. He and Peter should be long gone by now, but Bucky couldn't pass up the chance to actually learn something more about how the world had ended. They had abandoned their truck a mile or so back, a dangerous necessity, and now they were behind one of the old SUVs, watching the dead stumble into each other over and over again. Peter had protested against such a long run, but the duo know how hard it is to load up collected supplies with a shit-ton of Walkers, or, god forbid, Runners, coming after you like you're the best thing since sliced bread. 

 

So, they left the truck, and Bucky ignored Peter's whining the entire time. 

 

Peter's maturing voice breaks him from his rapid thoughts, "Bucky?" The teenager is visibly nervous, and it sends out the familiar, foul stench of anxious pheromones. A harsh reminder that his brother had presented. The whole reason why they had stayed around for two extra weeks, even though Bucky had wanted to leave as soon as those raiders came to the town. "Are we going in?" 

 

Bless his little brother, the kid never mentions Bucky's own nervousness. 

 

"Yeah," Bucky nods, clearing his throat. His left hand makes a grab for the machete at his hip, and he hands Peter a silenced pistol that had been resting at his hip. "You know the drill." It isn't a statement, not to Peter. It's a prompt. 

 

"Let you go in first, don't leave your sight for more than ninety seconds, stay as quiet as possible, and only used my gun if I have to." 

 

"And?" 

 

A rule added on after their last run nearly went to shit, Peter mumbles it under his breath with a muted sigh, "don't grab anything we don't need."  

 

They hadn't always been this close, being born eleven years apart didn't really give them much to talk about. Fifteen years before, when the world was still normal, Peter had just joined the Barnes family  at age two, and Bucky was the ripe old age of thirteen. Two years later, four year old Peter had become a menace and Bucky's genius self was enrolled into Georgia Tech, starting his college life early, much to his mother's dismay. He used college as his excuse to move out, but he ended up getting a Bachelor's in biomedical engineering at age nineteen, and really, how's that for irony? Biomedical engineering is what got the world into this whole mess, probably

 

Then, he moved back home to Macon. 

 

Then, the world ended. No one quite knew the reason why, but Bucky had a few of his own ideas. So, with two dead parents, a missing sister, and an eight year old brother, Bucky found himself finally using all the supposedly useless knowledge he had retained from his father's favorite survival shows. 

 

Peter follows close behind as Bucky leads them across the parking lot and straight to the worn ashlar walls of the facility. The brothers crept sneakily past the uninterested Walkers, and Bucky vaulted himself through a low, broken window, flinching at the sound of glass crunching under his boots. Peter hopped in about ten seconds later, albeit his lean form allowed him to have a much quieter landing than Bucky's own, slightly more muscular frame. Not that he was entirely buff, no. The apocalypse doesn't allow that, but Bucky definitely had more muscle than most omegas he had known before.

 

"It stinks in here," the younger of the two notes under his breath, causing Bucky to shoot him a glare that said shut the hell up

 

It does stink, Bucky has to admit that much. The stench of death and decaying pheromones fills the dark halls. Bucky suppresses a gag, forcing himself further into the building with his machete clenched in hand. 

 

The brothers clear a few rooms on the ground floor level, all of which had been remarkably empty of both the dead and supplies, and rather than going up, Bucky and Peter venture down to the sub-level. There is something running the building, Bucky knows that much because the lights are flickering as they pad down the hall. There are no doors, just an elongated, white hall with bloody smears that contrast starkly whenever the lights flicker back on. It is eerily quiet, silent even, save for Bucky and Peter's breathing and the quiet ticking of the lights. 

 

Eventually, the hall comes to an end, with only a single door on the right. Bucky desperately wishes it was the strangest thing he had ever seen, but it isn't even close. 

 

Tossing a nod back at his brother, the omega lifts the machete horizontally to his chest, ready to strike, and puts a hand on the doorknob. It twists, unlocked, and he pushes it open to reveal. . . 

 

Another fucking door, in an empty fucking room. 

 

This place is starting to piss Bucky off. 

 

All in all the room isn't completely empty: there's a computer pushed off to the side, next to a deserted hospital bed. 

 

When he places his hand on the next knob, his eyes flicker to Peter, "how much d'you wanna bet we'll find Patient Zero in here?" 

 

Peter rolls his doe eyes, but still makes his bet. "One of the ice cream MREs?" 

 

Bucky nods, "you're on," and he opens the door. 

 

This room is entirely different to the rest of the vacant ones. There are wires trailing down the walls, attached to a suspiciously bed-like tube in the middle of the room, and another computer off to the side. There is a large screen, providing the two brothers with someone's vital signs, and Jesus H. Christ, Bucky thinks. There's someone inside that thing. 

 

The air in the room is freezing, much like outside, and Bucky watches as Peter's breath fogs in front of him. "Stay by the door," he demands, fully expecting the teenage alpha to listen. Of course, he doesn't. The omega is so distracted as he approaches the chamber providing the vitals that he doesn't notice Peter wander over to the computer. 

 

Bucky tries to wipe at the frosted glass to show whoever, or whatever, was inside, but nothing happens until he hears a faint beep. His eyes shoot up. Peter is at the computer, looking guilty as hell while the glass defrosts. 

 

"I told you to stay by the damn door," he growls to the teen walking up to him. "What'd you do?"

 

"I pressed a button that said 'defrost.'" 

 

The next look Bucky gives him is one of exasperation. "What the fuck, Pete?" He looks back down at the glass chamber with a glare before he turns it back to his brother. "What if it actually is Patient Zero and we just ended the world all over again?" 

 

We. It's always we. He never singles Peter out, because if Peter does something stupid, it means Bucky was being dumb enough to let him. 

 

"Uhm," Peter squeaks, also looking at the glass. "I don't think so. . . unless Captain America started the apocalypse?" 

 

Bucky frowns, "Captain. . ." and he looks down, and the glass isn't foggy anymore. It's completely clear. And there, laying in the bed, still wearing the damn monkey suit, is Steve Goddamn Rogers. Sleeping. Frozen. Defrosting. Because his idiot kid brother pressed a button. "What the hell?" 

 

Glass breaks on the floor above them, and Bucky can hear the moans of what he hopes are only Walkers entering the building. 

 

"Well," Peter says, lifting the sleeping soldier's containment lid with the press of another button. "I guess we gotta take him with us!" 

 

He sounds entirely too happy. 

 

"I'm sorry?" Bucky sputters, nearly dropping his machete in disbelief. "He's not coming with us!"

 

"Well, he's obviously been frozen for like, a million years or whatever," because his seventeen year old brain still can't quite process time, apparently, "and we can't let him wake up alone. And I don't know how to freeze him again. . . not, not that I would!" 

 

Bucky sputters again, but this time he can't get anything out.

 

Ten seconds later, he's helping Peter lift the heavy, hundred year old man out of his frozen tomb, and then the brothers are walking back out the way they came, acting as human crutches for the unconscious soldier. All because he can't tell his little brother "no". 

 

And seriously, how is this Bucky's life? 

Chapter Text

The thing is, sometimes Peter will call him Mom

 

And it's not as a joke, or out of teenage sarcasm, and he doesn't mean any harm by it. The kid was eight when the world ended, when it took their parents - and Becca, his brain supplies unhelpfully - , and Bucky has been all he's known since then. The only omega in his life. He has raised him for nearly ten years.

 

So, he calls his big brother Mom, and Bucky lets him, even though it pulls at his heartstrings. Just a little. 

 

They are back in the truck, Bucky driving with Peter in the passenger seat, constantly turning his body so he can stare at their new passenger. Then, he'll face forward again, and fiddle with the radio of their old Toyota Tundra while he frowns at the ongoing static before he drops his hands down onto his lap. Then he'll look into the backseat again. It's been his routine for half an hour. 

 

Another thing that's bothering Bucky? As their new alpha passenger defrosts, his scent becomes increasingly strong. Bucky has rolled his window down twice now, just for some fresh air, and he'll be damned if he has to do it again. 

 

"Buck?" Peter prompts during what Bucky believes is his sixth time staring at the soldier. "He's shivering." 

 

"Huh?" Bucky spares a brief glance back, and sure enough, the unconscious man is visibly shaking. "That's good, I think," he says, pulling the truck over so he can get a better look, just to make sure that's all it is.

 

Peter's dark, disbelieving eyes turn to him as he turns up the heat, "it is?" The old engine groans when the heater kicks on. 

 

That's all it is. The super soldier is just suffering a case of the shivers, he hasn't died or turned. "Uh-huh," the omega turns back to the road, shifting the gear into drive, and then they're on the road again. "Means his body is tryin' to maintain homeostasis, or I guess in his case, regain it. It'll help him warm up."

 

"But are you sure?" Peter flips around in his seat again for the sole purpose of sticking his face right above the captain's. "It doesn't mean anything bad?" 

 

Bucky cracks his window for another bout of fresh air as he snaps in response, "yes, I'm fucking sure." He feels a little apologetic after, but he hasn't been around any alphas for so long in years, and it is not doing him any good. 

 

Peter slumps back into his seat, his scent taking on that of an apology and a hint of standard teenage irritation at being snapped at. He grumbles something unintelligible under his breath, and Bucky is sure it isn't an apology. 

 

Another hour of driving gets them to Jackson, passing the town's sign as Bucky slows to a stop. He parks the truck, part of their new town routine. Jackson isn't truly a new town to them, but they haven't been around for a few months, for good reason. He doesn't want to stop here, but he needs to sleep, and then sleep some more. And then think about what they are going to do with the soon-to-be completely recovered super soldier currently taking up half their vehicle space. 

 

And that doesn't even resemble a start to the questions he has for the one hundred year old man.

 

"We're stopping?" Peter asks, lifting his head from where it had rested on the window for the past hour. He leans forward to look out the window, taking in the damp ground and cloudy sky. It had stopped raining about ten minutes earlier. "I thought we were going to Concord." His eyes dart around again, searching. He likes stopping in Jackson about as much as Bucky does. 

 

Bucky climbs out of the truck, opening the back door, "we are. I need to sleep." He explains as he shuffles things around, looking for a blanket. 

 

"I can drive." Peter reminds him. "We can switch places, and then we don't have to stop. . . here," and then he's hopping out of the truck too, and coming around to stand just behind Bucky. The teen doesn't say the town's name, but here still sounds disgusted in the older brother's ears. 

 

The omega contemplates, holding his brother's hopeful stare until they are interrupted by the low groan of what Bucky assumes is a zombie. But when they look around, theres no Walkers, Runners, or other types around. He sends Peter to look on the other side of the truck, but the boy calls back "I don't see anything."

 

So, naturally, when theres another, somewhat pained groan, Bucky turns his inspecting gaze to their new resident super soldier, and lo, there's a gorgeous pair of baby blues staring right back at him. 

 

"Oh. You're awake." Then, before Bucky can say anything else, the soldier frowns. 

 

"Where's your Alpha?" Rogers sounds a little breathless, and Bucky would feel sorry but he's a little peeved. 

 

That's not what he was expecting. At all. 

 

"Excuse me?" Because seriously, who was he to imply that an omega needs an alpha at all times. But of course, before Bucky can receive a proper answer, Mr. America is already passed out again. 

 

At least his shivering has decreased, Bucky sighs irritably. The blond's teeth still click together every couple of seconds, but the shaking has calmed down quite a bit, and the soldier has gained some color in his cheeks. 

 

Peter runs back around the truck, "did he just talk?" 

 

"He's lucky he's incapacitated, or I'd deck him," Bucky mutters as he passes Peter, carrying a blanket, and there is a boom of thunder that only seems to worsen his mood. His brother snickers out something about the omega using his Big College Words, and the older of the two rolls his eyes. They can't keep the heater going for the rest of the trip, it would eat too much gas, so instead they'll have to bundle up. "Just drive." He settles into the passenger seat, reclining it so that his head is a couple inches above the soldier's lower legs. 

 

Peter's driving isn't the best, but it's not the worst, either. He'll hit the brakes too hard, sometimes he goes too fast, and once he almost crashed them into a tree. But still, not the worst. Bucky hadn't passed his driver's test until twenty, and now he's the best driver he knows. 

 

Of course, his brother is the only other driver he knows now, and Bucky had been the one to teach him how to drive. 

 

When Bucky wakes up, it's because of nothing. The sound of silence had startled him awake. He squints as his eyes open against the fading sunlight, and his chest feels a little heavy with contentment. The truck is parked on the side of the highway next to a mile marker for Concord that states they're only ten miles out, but when he looks to the driver's seat, Peter isn't there. 

 

Peter is not there

 

Bucky immediately sits up, breath hitching and his heart racing, and the heavy weight on his chest disappears only to be replaced with panic because where is he? Even his stupid Howling Commandos backpack is gone.

 

Bucky looks to the back of the truck, and Rogers is gone too. Not only did he lose his brother, he went and lost Captain America too. 

 

He scrambled to get out of the truck, the cold hair nipping at his arms while he pulled on a jacket, though he should have grabbed two. He slammed the door, turning to face the woods to the right of the truck. Nothing. Not even a Walker. He jogs around the front of the truck to the other side, and still, nothing. They're both just. . . gone. Bucky's jaw tightens, and he lets out a quiet whimper of frustration. 

 

"Buck!" Someone calls to his left. "Bucky, look!" 

 

Bucky's head jerks in the direction of his brother's voice, and there they are. Carrying three QuikTrip bags full of junk. They aren't moving fast at all, to which he panics a little more, because what if there's a Runner and Peter won't leave Rogers' slow, frozen ass behind? 

 

Bucky runs up to them, hauling Peter into a tight hug and burying his face into his brother's hair, searching for the familiar scent. "What the hell, Pete?" His voice cracks, but it's mostly muffled the young alpha's hair. 

 

"Bucky!" Peter hugs him back briefly before he pulls away. "Formal introductions, Bucky, this is Mr-." He pauses at the look Rogers gives him. "Sorry, this is Steve. . . Steve, this Bucky, the brother I mentioned before." 

 

"Nice to meet you, Bucky." Steve sticks out a hand, fully expecting Bucky to grab it. 

 

He doesn't. Instead, he says, "Peter, go back to the truck. The adults are going to have a little chat." Briefly thinking, he adds, "five minutes," just so the kid knows how long they'll be sitting ducks. 

 

Once Peter is safely out of earshot, Bucky turns and full on glares at Steve. "Are you out of your damn mind?" He throws his arm out to the right, gesturing towards the truck, "are you trying to get him killed?"  

 

Steve looks a little stunned, "sorry?"

 

But Bucky isn't done yet, "he's just a kid! He doesn't need to be going on runs for-," he rips one of the bags away from the blond and looks inside, "for junk food of all things! He doesn't need to eat that shit regularly. He has no business eating food that's just gonna slow him down when a Runner is chasing after him, and then he'll-." The omega's voice cracks, breaking off the rest of his sentence as the rain picks back up. He's shaking, out of fear, or maybe he is actually cold, but he regrets only grabbing one jacket. 

 

Steve holds up a placating hand, "I'm sorry, really, I am." He lets out a breath, like Bucky is about to interrupt his apology, but the omega stays quiet. "He said you'd be fine with it, and that we would be back before you woke up anyways." 

 

Bucky blinks. "So because I wouldn't have known, that made it okay to run off with a seventeen year old kid without telling his guardian?" 

 

"What? No!" But before he can explain any further, something lets out a ungodly, continuous shriek. 

 

"Fuck," Bucky whispers, hurriedly turning in circles as he tries to pinpoint the sound. He grabs Steve's forearm, tugging him along as he runs back to the truck. "Fuck, fuck, fuck!"

 

Peter, having also heard the scream, already had the truck started when they arrived. Bucky barely gives Steve any time to close the back door before he's shifting the truck into drive and getting the hell out of there

 

Fifteen seconds later, he sees it. They all see it, given Steve's mumbled "what the hell" and his brother's choked off gasp.

 

"We call them Screamers," Bucky provides, taking his eyes off the decaying body standing in the middle of an open field roughly twenty feet to their left. "Some call 'em Criers, I've heard the term Wailer thrown around a few times too. They usually don't get too close, but it's the screaming you have'ta worry about." 

 

 "Why?" Steve asks, then, "why did it look so . . ." He trails off, and Bucky isn't sure how he would describe it either. 

 

"Decayed? Horrifying? Totally disgusting?" He fills in the verbal options, teeth chattering while Peter feels around for their fluffy blanket for him. "That's just how it is now. You've been asleep for a long time, man." Peter lets out a whisper of triumph as he finds the blanket wedged between the seat and the door, before he tugs it out to wrap it around Bucky's shoulders.

 

Steve is quiet for a minute or two, the Screamer's wailing faded during the time, and Bucky is just thinking he's passed out again when he asks, "how long?"

 

"Seventy-three years, give or take." Bucky's eyes meet Steve's in the rearview. "Welcome to Hell, Steve Rogers." 

Chapter Text

The two brothers opted out of stopping in Concord. It was a little too close to the Screamer they had seen, so they went on for a couple more miles before they stopped in Gay. Steve had passed out again, likely out of some form of shock, not that Bucky is too worried about him. He's sure the man will be alright. 

 

They arrived in the little town about an hour or two before, the sun having just set, and the brothers are finishing up clearing out a house for the trio to rest in for a few days. It is small, if Bucky is being honest, but it's cute. Worn down red brick, a two bedroom, one-story nestled just in front of the woods, and for such a little house, the yard is fairly large. Not that they'd be using it. 

 

Bucky watches as Peter parks the truck in the yard, keeping it mostly hidden from any unwanted attention. He takes a moment to breathe. The air is fresh, the scent of the afternoon rain sends a comforting shiver down his spine. His hair is getting long again, just brushing past the top of his ears, and when he doesn't push them back, he has bangs that flop across his forehead. And he needs to shave: he hasn't in the two weeks he had been tending to Peter during his presenting rut. He watches silently in amusement as, in the dimmed light of the truck, Peter attempts to wrangle a still sleeping Steve out of the truck. 

 

The boy drops him, and the man wakes, startled by the cold, wet grass that makes contact with the back of his neck. Bucky sighs as he walks over, sticking out a hand to help the man up. 

 

"Thank you," Steve nods, subconsciously brushing off any leftover grass from his suit  

 

Bucky gives him a once-over with crossed arms, "we need to get you into some new clothes." 

 

The soldier looks down at himself, as though he is just now realizing what he's wearing. The Captain America suit is no longer pristine, but it isn't muddled with sweat stains, or too many blood stains, for that matter, not that he can see much in this lighting. Bucky figures it's from the man's fight before he went down in the Valkyrie, but this is a problem that can easily be fixed. 

 

He heads into the little house, flashlight in hand, with the blond alpha following close behind, and the two of them walk down a short, vacant hall to one of the rooms that Bucky had cleared before. The closet is entirely empty, save for a few pairs of shoes that could probably fit Peter, but the omega remembers seeing an undershirt-style tank top and a few pairs of pants in the dresser. 

 

He tosses the shirt and a pair of pants, though they were sweats - not exactly ideal for the apocalypse, at the man. "Get dressed," he gestures to the door across the hall. "Bathrooms in there, I can wash the suit later," his eyes fall on a tear at the man's side, "I can stitch it up too, once we get settled in." 

 

Steve stares down at the clothes in hand, then sincerely says "thank you" before he departs to the bathroom. 

 

Bucky ambles back into the living room where Peter is sitting, and he takes a seat next to him, letting the boy rest his head on his shoulder. He shifts, wrapping an arm around his brother and tucking him close. "You okay?" He questions quietly, not quite ready to disturb the silence of the house. 

 

Peter hums, closing his eyes. "I'm fine. Are we gonna be here long?" 

 

"Couple'a days probably," Bucky answers. "I want to see how we'll travel and ration now that there's three of us. Gotta teach Steve the ropes, too." 

 

"We never ration." Peter frowns against his shoulder, and Bucky runs a hand through the kid's hair. 

 

The older of the two takes a few minutes to reply. "Well, there's three of us now, and on top of that, he's genetically enhanced and you're both alphas. You have to start eating more too, or you'll be even more exhausted all the time." 

 

Peter doesn't reply, already passed out and drooling against Bucky's shoulder.

 

Steve comes back from the bathroom, donning the white tank top and a pair of grey sweats, holding the Captain America suit just slightly away from him, its white star shining in the moonlight, as though he wants to be rid of it. And yeah, Bucky can see why. He stands, untangling himself from Peter, and grabs the suit. As he passes him to head to the room they had been in before, he tilts his head as a signal for the man to follow. 

 

They reach the room, and Bucky slips the suit into his pack before sitting on the twin sized bed that had been pushed against the wall. Steve takes a seat as well, sitting a foot or two away, and Bucky can smell the alpha's comforting scent. 

 

It was likely a teenager's room. There were old alternative rock posters littering the navy blue wall that appears black in the lack of light across from them. An orange rock salt lamp sat on the wooden nightstand by the bed, and Bucky briefly wishes the house had electricity, just so he could pretend its apricot glow was soothing.

 

"So," Steve starts, much to Bucky's surprise, because the man has barely said anything to him. "Seventy-three years? That means it's, what?" He pauses for a short second, thinking. "2018?" 

 

"Mhm," the omega nods, "I think it's January, might be getting closer to February though. I don't really keep track anymore. Peter, though," he lets out a quiet huff of a laugh. "Pete could tell you what day it was, right down to the second." 

 

"He's a good kid," the blond settles, pushing himself across the bed so his back can rest against the wall. "He's lucky to have you looking out for him." 

 

Bucky nearly scoffs, "you don't even know me." He's not protesting, but he isn't truly agreeing either. "I could be an axe murderer, or a cannibal." 

 

"You could have left me behind," Steve turns his head to look at him, but Bucky's eyes stay gazing at the lamp. "Back in that. . . place. You could've left me at that store Peter took me to. But you didn't." The soldier nudges him, "you're a good man, Bucky." 

 

"Yeah." Bucky's voice is a little hoarse, but he's not sure if it's from underuse or his emotions. He isn't sure which one he'd want to be the cause either. 

 

In the silence between his own breaths, he can hear Steve's own breathing, until the man says, "so, zombies?" 

 

Bucky laughs quietly, though it is only a short huff of air, "yeah. A little different from White Zombie though. A lot, actually." 

 

Steve's head makes a muffled thunk as it falls back against the wall. He swallows, "how so? Peter said there were different kinds, but he didn't elaborate." 

 

"You sure you want to hear about this now? You don't want to rest first?" 

 

"I've been sleeping for seventy years, Bucky." 

 

The omega brushes his thumbs together, back and forth. "Right, okay." He joins Steve in leaning against the wall. "Well, they all have two things in common: they're dead and they'll definitely eat you, given the chance." He watches as the blond clenches his jaw, but he keeps going. "There's Walkers, a pretty self explanatory name, honestly. They walk, they've been dead more than a couple'a months, so the decay is starting to catch up with them. Before they become Walkers, they're Runners. Fresh zombies, really fuckin' fast. You don't want one coming after you." 

 

Steve is staring outside at the night sky through the room's single window. "Why not?" 

 

"A Runner will take you down and take you out in a matter of seconds if you don't kill it first. They're hard to kill to, it's better to take out the legs, but even that puts you at a higher risk of dying. Speaking of going for the legs, Crawlers. Zombies that have no ability to walk, whether they were paralyzed before the outbreak, or some form of physical trauma incapacitated them. They aren't really ones to worry about, but don't catch yourself underestimating them, 'cause they're good at hiding. You never know when one will crawl out from under somethin' and get you." 

 

The soldier is visibly uncomfortable, his jaw clenching and unclenching, which makes Bucky stop. Steve takes notice and tries to come across as undeterred, but he gives up quickly at Bucky's no-bullshit look. 

 

"I'll tell you about the other types when you've had time to process all this." He says, leaving no room for question. "Now, if you have any questions that aren't about zombies, I'd be happy to answer 'em." 

 

The alpha's eyes dart over to him, and Bucky sits up. His blond, cropped hair looks like a halo in the light of the moon. The man seems like he hadn't expected Bucky to want to reminisce about the Good Ol' Days. "Did we win?" 

 

"Win. . ?" The brunet raises a brow, then: "oh, the war. Yeah, in a few ways. The Allies won, a least, and at Hitler kicked the bucket two months after you went down. I don't think anyone ever really wins a war, though." Bucky frowns, "whatever though, it was before my time, and now it's in the past, and even though it's a closer past for you, we have more shit to worry about than who really won World War II." 

 

"Like the zombies?" 

 

Bucky chuckles, "yes, like the zombies." 

 

"Thank you," Steve says after a few minutes of peaceful silence have passed. "For not leaving me, and for catching me up," he continues his appreciation, much to Bucky's dismay, "and for not overwhelming me with information, even though I basically told you to." 

 

Bucky turns to face him. "Really, it's no problem," he says with a shake of his head. "I'm happy to assimilate you into this apocalyptic hell-hole with the high hope that you don't die." Then, he amends, "or that any of us die. But we'll be fine," and right then, he isn't sure who he is trying to reassure. 

 

He leaves the conversation at that, telling Steve to get some rest, and that he would see him the next morning. In the living room, Peter is still asleeping, so he picks up the young boy and deposites him onto the bed in the second bedroom, taking the couch for himself. He falls asleep fast, his knife wedged between the old, torn up cushons of the couch, its muted black handle sticking out, reading for an easy grab.

Chapter Text

They made it three days in the little house before the Screamer caught up, this time with friends of its own, though thankfully they were only Walkers. Bucky had taught Steve a few more things about the new world, as well as the world Bucky had grown up it. Peter had been more than happy to listen in as well, and the older brother desperately wished that the boy had gotten to experience the real life of a teenager. He learned a bit more about Steve too, stuff that hadn't been thoroughly explained in the history books. 

 

Like the fact that he was an artist, a damn good one, which had barely been mentioned past the man's involvement in Project Rebirth. He sketched a picturesque rendition of Peter doing some ridiculous pose in what couldn't have been more than ten minutes, and the boy loved it.

 

They bond in their spare time between scavenging the nearby houses and teaching Steve the ways of the apocalypse, often talking about how Bucky and Peter had to, just like Steve, experience two completely different worlds in one lifetime. Peter also babbles about the obsession he and Bucky previously had with dinosaurs, something Steve finds quite funny.

 

So, when Bucky wakes to the sound of Peter's frantic cursing, Steve's rapid packing, and the faint wail approaching in the distance, he knows their luck has run out, and they must move on. That is how the apocalypse life works: one must never, ever, overstay their welcome, and they've been in this house for far too long.

 

They pack the truck, shoving their bags side by side on the back floorboard, and taking any nonperishable foods and medicines with them. Peter and Steve have switched seats, mostly so the boy can lounge across the spacious backseat area and read the fraying comic books he and Bucky have collected over the years. Today's reading is Spider-Man: Breakout, though Bucky isn't sure which volume it is, but the boy is enthralled by the colorful pages as if he hasn't read it a million times before. 

 

"Do you two move around a lot?" Steve asks, roughly twenty minutes after they have left, shifting his eyes over to Bucky who had been mouthing the words to Billy Currington's Good Directions as it played softly in the background. The brunet's left hand rested on the 12 o'clock of the steering wheel, while his right hand hangs limply in the air as his elbow rests on the center console of the truck 

 

Bucky shrugs with one shoulder, "we go where we need to." He glances back at Peter who has payed their shared words no mind. "Sometimes we stick around for week, sometimes days. Other times it's just a couple of hours. It's dangerous on the road, but it's just as dangerous to sit around on your ass gettin' comfortable." 

 

The other man takes in his words, and Bucky has just gone back to his silent singing when he speaks again. "What were you doing when you found me?" 

 

"Scavenging, looking for useful stuff like medicine, nonperishables, y'know, the works." Bucky ejects the disk when the final song plays, "can you put this in the CD box and switch it for one of Kenny Chesney's albums?" 

 

Steve takes the disk from his hand but frowns, "who?" 

 

"He's a country artist," Bucky explains. "He's wearing a hat on the cover." 

 

The soldier is quiet for a minute or so, shuffling the cases, pulling some out and placing them back in. "Bucky, there's six Chesney covers with him wearing a hat." 

 

"I want the one where he's wearing a flannel." 

 

Steve plucks the CD case out of its slot in the box, popping the disk into the truck's radio, and soon, the soothing sound of a guitar fills the truck. 

 

They listen to the whole forty minute album before Bucky stops in an unmarked town on his map. It would have been considered small before the apocalypse, but now, the city was practically desolate. He just hopes it's far enough from Macon that they won't have problems with any large groups, human or zombie. 

 

Bucky wants to find a place to settle. Hell, for the first three years or so, when he was trying to raise Peter as that same, sheltered kid he had always been, it was all he thought about. They two of them must have been up and down the west end of Georgia dozens of times. Now, he feels like venturing into central Georgia might be a mistake. It had been densely populated, and the omega has no doubt that they will see more zombies than usual. 

 

He's leaning against the driver's side door of the truck, staring at a Walmart when he makes the decision to check it out. "Steve," he holds out the pistol that had been strapped to his thigh. "You're with me. Peter," the boy peaks his head out of the back window. "Watch the truck," he passes over one of their two-way radios. "You see anything, hear anything, radio us." 

 

Steve has to pry the Walmart's door open, much to Bucky's surprise. He figures it to be a good sign though, as most places that were picked clean often had broken windows and doors. The alpha slides the doors back together, leaving them open enough for each man to squeeze through if need be, and Bucky pushes a fairly squeaky cart in front of the opening to alert them of any visitors. The store itself is dark from the lack of power, but faint light sneaks through a few skylights. It isn't much though, the dark clouds had followed them across the state and Bucky knew there was a thunderstorm brewing.

 

He turns to the alpha, pushing another cart towards him, and trusting a flashlight into the man's hands. "You're looking out for water, batteries, any sort of radio that looks like this," he holds up his own radio, "raw honey, white rice, powdered milk in nitrogen packed cans, and dried beans. I'll be in the outdoor section," he points to the back corner of the store. Bucky clips the radio back to his belt before he drops his shirt over it. "Don't shoot anything if you don't have to, see if you can't use your knife first. And stay safe, got it?" 

 

Steve, accepting the cart from him, nods and says, "yeah, you stay safe too," but he doesn't look thrilled at the idea of splitting up.

 

Bucky shrugs, as if to say I'll try my best, before he grabs his own cart and clicks on his flashlight. The omega gives a mock salute as the part ways in the middle of the store, the blond making his way to the water isle, and the brunet to the camping area. 

 

The camping-outdoors section is pretty well picked through, much to his dismay. There are a few pellet guns still on display, surrounded by broken glass, and some smaller knives that had been discarded in favor of a larger size. He can count the leftover fishing poles on one hand, but there is a sleeping bag left. He throws it into the cart. 

 

And if he lets out a relieved whimper at the sight of several Mountain House freeze-dried food pouches, well, it's not like Steve could hear him anyhow. 

 

The ever present boom of thunder accompanied by static through the radio has his hand flying to his hip. "Peter?" 

 

". . . -cky, Buck-? . . there?" The teenager's voice breaks apart through the radio, and the omega is sure that the wind has picked up outside, because he can hear it in the background. 

 

"Pete," he says as he pushes his cart towards the other end of the store, hoping to catch sight of Steve. "Peter? What's going on?" 

 

His brother's voicr comes through mostly clear on the next try. "Bucky! You guys have to come back!" The boy is panting, but it's not from exhaustion as far as Bucky can tell. It's from panic. ". . . -many, so freaking many, Buck!"

 

"On my way," is the omega's efficient reply.

 

Shit, he thinks, shoving what he can into his backpack before he's running across the store and yelling for Steve. Nearly crashing into the man as Bucky rounds a corner, the alpha grabs him by his biceps. 

 

"It's Peter, there's a-." His voice cracks and tears well up in his eyes as he shifts on his feet, ready to run. Outside, he hears fear inducing, telltale wail of a Screamer. "We have'ta go, now!" And then the two men are sprinting to the entrance they had left propped open. Bucky had his machete gripped tight, his knuckles whitening, and Steve was sporting a long combat knife gifted to him by Bucky.

 

By the time they have reached the doors and pushed the cart away, the truck is surrounded by Walkers, and Bucky just knows that Peter isn't inside. He and Steve inch along the side of the store, quietly and efficiently taking out any zombies that get too close, all the while keeping a look out for the missing teen. Once, a Walker sneaks up behind Steve, but Bucky is there a second later with his machete already wedged into the creature's skull and nodding at a wide-eyed Steve. 

 

The back of the Walmart holds no visible enemies, but neither man see who they are looking for, and Bucky is about three seconds away from breaking down. He holds down the PTT, but the radio is dead. His machete clatters against the cracked and faded asphalt, and he presses the heels of his hands up to his temples before taking a deep, shuddering breath. Steve is standing at a distance, but he's close enough that the sound of Bucky's quickly advancing distress catches his attention. 

 

Bucky should have known, shouldn't have stopped so close to Macon -- to such a large city. It was stupid of him, thoughtless, he thinks. He voices such, but he can't hear the protests coming from Steve's rapidly moving lips over the sound of his own heart pouding in his ears, so loud he's sure he'll go deaf. He hasn't stepped away from the wall, the only thing supporting him at the moment. The alpha's nostrils flare at the scent of the omega's fear as he approaches before he pulls Bucky away from the wall. 

 

"Bucky," the soldier sounds far away, like Bucky is underwater. "We have to go."

 

Steve grabs the machete from the ground, forcing it into the omega's hands and all but dragging him across the back area of the store and towards the forest. 

 

Away from Peter. 

 

Bucky stops, causing Steve to jerk his head back. "What is it?" 

 

"P-Peter, we can't leave without him!" He turns around, already stepping back in the direction of the store until the blond stops him. Some of the Walkers are pouring around the sides of the Walmart, slowing edging towards them. 

 

Pulling him back towards the dense woods, Steve raises his voice slightly. "Bucky, he isn't there! We have to go, come on!" He isn't taking no for an answer, pushing Bucky into action with an Alpha Command, unrelenting, even when the omega lets out a short, dry sob.

 

Somewhere in the distance, as the two men run into the green brush at the edge of the woods, a Screamer lets out another long, gut churning wail, and Bucky hopes Peter got away in time. 

Chapter Text

They don't stop running until Bucky stumbles and drops down as his legs give out. They have been zigzagging through the forest for close to half an hour, and any other time, Bucky is sure he could have ran for another ten minutes at least, but he is so fucking exhausted. Steve stops ahead of him, his blue eyes darting around rapidly, never ceasing in their assessment of the surrounding area. The blond deems it safe enough to stop, apparently, because he has moved to drop down next to Bucky. 

 

"Are you alright?" Steve asks, and the omega feels the urge to scream his frustrations at the back of his tightening throat. 

 

Bucky allows himself to fall backward, sitting with his back against a tree and propping his elbows up into his knees. Steve sits with his legs crisscrossed, as though he was a child getting ready for story time. 

 

Finally, Bucky croaks, with tears streaming down his cheeks, "we left him," and hell if that doesn't break him down even more. He left his kid brother behind to die. "We left him. I left him." 

 

"He got away," Steve is projecting pheromones of comfort, and the omega wants to bask in it. "I saw him, Bucky. He was running into the woods to, farther south than us, but he's out here somewhere." 

 

Bucky lets out a wet sob at the thought of it. Of Peter out in the woods, lost and alone, missing his brother. God, what if Peter thinks they're dead? Steve reaches out, and the brunet lets himself be pulled into the alpha's sturdy chest. Running a hand over his dark hair, Steve rocks him softly, letting Bucky cry for as long as he needs to. 

 

After several long minutes of nothing but the omega's sobs filling the air, he quiets down, and all they hear are the sounds of curiously chirping birds. Bucky can smell the aftereffects of his stress, the sour scent mingled with Steve's own comforting one. The soldier is still sitting in front of him, albeit closer after the soft rocking, and Bucky rests his forehead against the alpha's shoulder. 

 

"We have to keep moving," Bucky decides with a sniffle. "Peter will be going to the neighborhood we planned to check out. He'll wait for two days. If we head south,  we'll hit the highway we came into town on, it will lead us to the neighborhood. . . to Peter." By the time he has finished, he is already on his feet and walking southward with Steve hot on his trail. 

 

"Is it safe to go there?" Steve inquires with a controlled tone, but Bucky knows the man is erring the side of caution. He watches from the corner of his eye as the man tries to catch up with him, stepping over a small fallen tree trunk. 

 

Bucky doesn't reply, not for a few minutes. "I'm not sure anywhere is truly safe," the toe of his boot catches on a rock and it goes flying. He hears Steve stumble over something behind him, "but it doesn't matter, we have to find Peter, and that's our best bet. Do you still have the gun I gave you?" He pauses, waiting for Steve to reply, but there is only silence. "Steve?" 

 

He can't even hear the alpha's footsteps, he realizes, and spirals around to check on him. His eyes dart around rapidly until they fall on a figure sprawled face down in the overgrowth of the woods. Bucky feels that same tightness rising in his throat again as he runs to the unconscious soldier, kneeling down at his side, hands hovering over the man's back. He shoves his hand under Steve's shoulder and pushes him over. It's only then that he sees it. A small, feathered dart stuck in the man's neck. A standard tranquilizer, he assumes, which should pass through the super soldier within a few minutes at most.

 

The sound of a gun cocking to his left causes his head to jerk up, but the muzzle pressed against his temple prevents him from moving it any further. 

 

"Thought you could get away, did ya?" The familiar tone of Rumlow's arrogance asks. "I told you, fucker," he drives the gun further onto Bucky's temple. Bucky winces, but Rumlow doesn't show any recognition to who Steve is, and that means he doesn't know Steve can wake up any second. "Or maybe your stupid Bitch brain couldn't comprehend it?" 

 

Bucky holds back a scoff, but that doesn't stop him from snarking back a reply. "You're so right, Brock," he spits the man's name like it's poison. "but I'm still the little omega bitch who outsmarted you. How's your face, by the way? Gotta have some scars, huh? I can't see anything behind that mask." 

 

The alpha let out a low growl and thwacked the butt of his pistol against Bucky's head, sending him down across Steve's back with a pained grunt. He turns over and if looks could kill, Rumlow would be dead three times over. He feels Steve shift behind him, so Bucky thrashes one of his legs out and kicks the offending alpha in the knee. When Rumlow goes down, Bucky kicks in him the face, though it doesn't do much thanks to the ugly metal mask on his face. 

 

Steve is awake by the time Bucky is on his feet again, but he still isn't coherent. Instead, he is blinking upwards, dumbly looking at the canopy of trees. 

 

"Looks like you're all alone, Rumlow." Bucky says as he kneels down to rest his left knee against the man's likely still injured shoulder. He cries out in pain. "Are you?" When he doesn't answer, Bucky pushes down harder. 

 

Rumlow twists his legs as he howls, "ah-, Jesus, fuck, no!" 

 

"Who's with you?" Bucky demands, knee still driving into the shoulder, his eyes catching Steve slowly sitting up. 

 

"I left the Compound, deserted them," Rumlow cries out. His hand makes a grab for Bucky's knee with the hope of pushing it away, pleading. "Took two'a their whores with me! They're with the kid!" 

 

Bucky growls as he rises to his feet, "where are they?" 

 

"On the highway! Half-mile," he gestures in a vague direction, but Bucky knows that the highway is the same way. Still, he hates Rumlow, so he raises his boot to hover above the alpha's crotch. "Please!" 

 

Steve comes to his side, slowly taking in the sight of the omega's foot digging into the stranger's shoulder, and the foul, intimidating scent of Bucky's anger and paranoia fills his nose. "Bucky?" 

 

Rumlow's dark, pain filled eyes flick over to Steve, "what the hell. . ?" Looks of recognition and confusion were quickly replacing that of anger and torment.

 

Bucky holds up a hand to hush the blond alpha, returning all of his attention to Rumlow. "One more question, humor me, please." Though his eyes haven't moved away from Steve, Rumlow still nods. "Seen Peter around?" 

 

Rumlow stares at Steve in silence. 

 

"I don't think you want to test my patience, Rumlow." Bucky growls, dropping his foot heavily onto the man's groin. 

 

"He's in the truck!" Rumlow howls, more than likely drawing the attention of any nearby Walkers, possibly some of the herd as well. "I grabbed him 'cause I thought you were around!" 

 

Bucky snatches the tranquilizer gun from the ground and shots a dart into Rumlow's chest with a blunt and insincere "thanks for your time," before the alpha passes out. 

 

Steve barely has any time to register what has happened before the omega is speed-walking in the direction the offending alpha had pointed in. He follows, not as quickly as he would have normally, but his pace is pretty damn close to Bucky's.

 

"Bucky? Who was that?" 

 

The omega ignores him, determined eyes set straight ahead.

 

Soon, he pauses to scent the air, and he changes course slightly, directing himself more south than before. Bucky knows he's getting close, he can smell the frightened, acrid scent of two younger omegas, and the familiar, yet faint, scent of home. Through the thick brush that separates the duo from the highway, Bucky spots a dark, armored truck pulled off to the side. He breaks into a run, jumping through the bushes and making a beeline for the parked vehicle. 

 

"Peter?" He calls as he gets closer, his tone just bordering frantic. "Pete? You in there?" He doesn't hear a reply for a couple of seconds, but then there's a series of hushed voices. "Hello? I'm not gonna hurt you," he waves Steve over to him, "me and my friend are here to help." 

 

"Bad Alpha?" The quiet, accented voice of a young girl inquires, and peaks her head up to peer out the window. Most of her face is still hidden, but a pair of green eyes are looking straight at him. 

 

"He's gone," Bucky soothes, "he ain't comin' back, sweetheart. Who else is in there with you?" 

 

"Brother," she answers after an infuriatingly long staredown. "Young alpha, older than us."

 

"That's Peter." Bucky takes another step towards the truck. The young girl flinches back, but keeps her eyes on him. "My brother, is he okay?" 

 

"He is sleeping." 

 

"Can you open the door?" Steve asks, coming up to stand beside Bucky, fully recuperated in the ten minutes it had taken them to reach the truck. The young omega's green eyes flit to him, and he smiles in a way that makes Bucky think he looks like a dork, not that he voices such. 

 

"Yes," she says, and Bucky hears the click of the door unlocking. 

 

As soon as the door is open, Bucky catches sight of Peter. He's sitting with his head in another young omega's lap, eyes closed and breathing peacefully. The new, male omega was thin, as was the girl. Now that he could see them, his heart clenched. The girl was small, even for an omega, and her dark chestnut hair hung in limp waves around her face. He figures Brock had went after it with the world's dullest pair of scissors, split ends and uneven lengths were visible even in the lighting of the cloudy sky and the shadows of the truck. 

 

The male omega was slightly taller, though he was sitting so Bucky couldn't tell how much, and a mop of overgrown bleached blond hair sat on his head. Rumlow had obviously been trying to change the appearance of the two omegas, but he had no clue as to why. 

 

"Why don't you come on out of there," Steve suggests to them, holding out a hand for the young girl to grasp so she can safely jump down from the truck. She hesitates, looking to her brother in silent conversation before they come to an agreement and she takes the blond alpha's hand. Her worn Converse thump as she drops from the lifted truck, and the boy follows in suit once he has removed Peter's head from his lap. "That's it," the alpha smiles again, warm and full of comfort as he tucks the two kids in close, the girl letting out a soft whimper "you're safe, it's alright." 

 

Bucky likes to think the apocalypse teaches him something every day. Today's fact? Captain Steve Rogers, aka Captain America, aka America's national treasure and golden boy, can hotwire a truck

 

He's sitting in the back with Peter and the girl, who had introduced herself as Wanda - the boy is her brother, Pietro, - while Steve drives, something he had picked up fairly quick, and the blond omega sleeps, reclined in the passenger seat. They're headed nowhere in particular, not for now, but Bucky can feel the rising pack mentality of the group, and he knows

 

They have to find somewhere to stay. Somewhere to settle, because they can't keep going on like this. Bucky has come to the realization that moving around from house to house, and town to town, just isn't going to cut it anymore, because he's got three kids and a hundred year old war veteran to take care of. 

 

And isn't that something? 

Chapter Text

Two days later, after plundering through a plethora of gas stations and countless hours of Bucky acting like a worried mother, the ragtag group has bunkered down in a fairly reliable area, he thinks. There isn't a large city just around the corner, and while there are no old grocery stores nearby, there are plenty of smaller, mom-and-pop stores. The same goes for the neighborhood Steve has picked for them. It's not sizable by any means, and none of the houses are meant to home for people, but it's the perfect spot to stop and recover. 

 

During this time, Bucky learns some things about Wanda and Pietro. 

 

"Ten," Wanda's voice had risen from the tiny, torn up recliner in the living room as Bucky moved about the kitchen, cleaning and looking for anything that could be useful in making dinner. He looked at her from the corner of his eye. "You were wondering our age, Pietro said he heard you ask the Alpha." She wasn't looking at him, instead staring into a small pocket mirror as she tried to braid her hair.

 

Sometimes, he wished he couldn't tell the difference between a title and a simple noun of designation.

 

"Steve," he wiped down the counter with a wet rag. The house water was -- by dumb luck, surely -- run through a well, and the pipes weren't rusted to Hell and back. "Not Alpha, he's just Steve."

 

She frowned, something she did often. "I'm sorry, I'll do better." 

 

Fuck. He tossed the rag into the chrome sink, plucking her from the couch and seating her between his legs on the couch, her back to him. He reached a hand forward and waved it by her face. "Brush." 

 

And for the next hour, Bucky had brushed and braided Wanda's hair into different plaits until she decided on his rendition of a French fishtail braid. 

 

Steve is outside doing something, Bucky isn't sure what, with Pietro. Laughter filters into the living room where he has been pinning blankets up to cover the windows, preventing any zombies from seeing the lights inside the house. Peter is also outside, tinkering with the truck they had stolen from Rumlow, but he's half-watching the two blonds and half-actually paying attention to trying to make the engine more efficient. 

 

Bucky catches himself watching Steve, eye's lingering on broad shoulders and narrow hips. Holds his gaze on the way the alpha's hair sometimes flops down onto his forehead before he contemplates asking if the man would like it to be trimmed. The alpha certainly rocks the post-apocalypse-lumberjack, and in the past week or so, he hasn't shaved. 

 

Somehow, Steve also rocks the awkward beard phase. It irks Bucky more than he'd like to admit. 

 

Bucky rocks back and forth on the porch swing with Wanda tucked under his arm, an old book in one hand as the other holds a peach up to his lips. He lets out a short groan at how delicious it is, the sweetness of it nearly distracting him from Harry and Hermione's conversation unfolding on the pages. A drop of peach juice escapes his mouth, sliding down to his chin. He uses the back of his hand to catch it and licks it clean, scantily noticing the growing silence around him. He looks up, his ice blue eyes meeting the alpha's own bright ones before the blond blinks out of his stupor, quickly turning back to the young omega trying to teach him how to play Hopscotch. 

 

"He likes you," Wanda says, not looking up from the page they had been reading. "Now keep reading." 

 

Bucky chuckles, flipping the page and narrating Dobby's lines in a silly voice, just to make the girl laugh. All the while, the thought of an alpha like Steve liking him lingers in the back of his mind. 

 

.   .   .

 

"Hey," Steve peaks his head through the door to the bedroom he and Bucky had been sharing. Bucky is sitting on the bed, back against the wall, and he is reminded of the night they had had their first real conversation. "You alright?" 

 

Bucky sighs melodramatically, "I really miss spaghetti." Then, he groans, "and garlic bread." 

 

Steve laughs, actually laughs, grabbing at his stomach as he sits on the edge of the bed. "Y'know, I never really liked spaghetti." 

 

Bucky's eyes widen, "garlic bread?" 

 

The soldier shrugs, "couldn't eat it before the serum, then I went on the USO tours, then the war. . . well, we just boiled everything."

 

"Maybe you just haven't had a good ol' Barnes special, then," Bucky smiles. "I'll see if I can't scrounge up some stuff to make noddles. It'll be a nice treat for the kids."

 

Jesus, Barnes, he could hear his best friend's voice in the back of his head. When did you get so domestic? 'For the kids'? Seriously? 

 

Steve, however, brightens up. "Yeah, I'm sure they'd love it!" He falls onto his back, his shoulder narrowly missing Bucky's legs, and looks at him upside down. 

 

Bucky looks at him, the same way he had been staring at him all those other instances, and before he can stop himself, "I like the beard." 

 

A large hand comes up to rub at the growing beard, "yeah?" 

 

"Oh yeah, not everyone can pull off the baby lumberjack look." He doesn't think he's ever had a worse case of word vomit. 

 

"Baby lumberjack?" The blond tilts his head, but it doesn't have the same affect as it should if he were sitting up. Instead, he looks like a puppy. "I'll have you know, I'm a fully grown man." 

 

"Oh right, I forgot!" The omega fights a smile, trying to keep his tone serious. "Should I go get your walker, old man?" Bucky throws his head back to laugh at the ceiling. 

 

.   .   . 

 

He never does make that spaghetti, because Peter has finally gotten an old, broken radio to transmit and receive other signals. Steve and Bucky have been sitting at the washed out wooden dining table - though they had pushed it into the tiny living room - switching from channel to channel until they got a response. 

 

It's a surprise that Bucky hadn't fallen out of his chair when he heard the voice on the other end. 

 

"He-. . . hello? . . - you hear me?" Sam Goddamn Wilson radios in from the other end. "Come in, anyone still on this channel? Over." 

 

Steve meets Bucky's widened eyes inquisitively, "We read you, we're still -." 

 

Before he can get anything else out, Bucky is ripping the radio from his grasp and speaking into it. "Sam? Sam is that you?" 

 

"Bucky?" Then, "holy hell, man. What the fuck?"

 

And for the first time in two years, he feels a little weight lifted off of his shoulders, because his best friend isn't dead. He hadn't died when they were forced to split up, and Bucky couldn't fucking believe it. 

 

Peter's gonna to have a fit, he knows. 

Chapter Text

Peter does, in fact, pitch a fit, but it's nothing compared to the utterly disgusting sobbing that spills from Bucky as Sam pulls him into what is quite possibly the world's tightest hug. It took them three days to drive to Sam's set up: a large -- by apocalypse standards -- community of a little under fifty people, eleven of which are around Peter's age, and four around the twins'.

 

The neighborhood had surely been for the pre-apocalypse rich folk, but now it is surrounded by a near ten foot wall of ugly sheet metal, Sam tells Bucky they had found a warehouse full of the stuff, and it's the span of approximately four blocks going both ways. Most of the houses are full, but his friend promises him that he has always had one saved for him because "Bucky Barnes ain't a damn quitter." 

 

He met Sam when he started his freshman year at Georgia Tech. He was a junior, of course, and studying for his bachelor's in psychology. He and the beta were quick friends despite Bucky's tendency to be an asshole -- Sam's words, not his. In all honesty, Bucky couldn't have asked for a better friend. Sam was always there for him when he needed him most, and he wasn't, and still isn't it seems, afraid to call Bucky out on his shit.

 

"So," Sam grins at him as they finish up their heartwarming reunion. Peter is still a damn mess, crying and dribbling snot into Steve's shoulder. "You gonna introduce me to your new pack." 

 

Bucky hadn't realized it until now, but they really are his pack. An unconventional one, sure, but a pack nonetheless. Steve the lowkey Alpha, Bucky the pack-mother, and the pups. It's functional and full of comfort, and the thought allows him to acknowledge the Pack Bond slowly growing between each of them. It's a jarring sensation. 

 

"Oh, uh-," he mutters incoherently. "Right, Sam, this is Wanda," the girl waves from Bucky's side, her hair now in two braids instead of one, "her twin, Pietro," the boy is a little more reserved, but he still manages a shy wave, "and Steve-." 

 

"Rogers." Sam gapes for a full ten seconds after he interrupts Bucky. "Steve Rogers, I knew I recognized you! I can't believe they actually did it," he babbles, not heeding the looks of confusion on the alpha and omega's faces. "I never really believed it, y'know? Riley said Hydra had found your body and that Shield was gonna get it back and make a vaccine, but I always thought it was just hopeful bullshit."

 

Steve furrows his brows, frowning as he casts a glance at Bucky who shrugs in return. "What are you talking about?" 

 

It's Sam's turn to frown, "well, Shield did find you, didn't they?" 

 

"Bucky and Peter found me," the omega nods along with him, "in an abandoned medical facility. They unfroze me and took me with them." 

 

This is a story the twins haven't heard before and it has their eyes bulging so wide that Bucky is almost afraid they'll just fall out. Leave it to two ten year olds to be amazed by one of the weirdest things that has ever happened to Bucky. 

 

"They-," the frown on Sam's face is one of lost hope and Bucky sort of wishes they hadn't said anything, but then the beta is shaking his head. "We can still tell Fury, I'll radio Nat tonight. . ." He's muttering to himself now, "she'll make contact, we can fix this, the whole world, even." 

 

The sheer look of fright on Steve's face isn't something Bucky will be forgetting anytime soon. Of course he's scared. The man just woke up from a seventy year long nap and now he's going to have more people poking at prodding at him? Bucky wouldn't be thrilled either. 

 

"Hold off on that, Sam, please," he begs, light eyes pleading. "Just give us a break, yeah? We aren't sayin' no," Steve nods along with his words, "but Steve's had it tough, man, he hasn't even been awake two weeks." 

 

Sam looks like he's swallowed several lemons. "I'm sorry, man," he apologizes to the alpha. "I got a little carried away there, huh. I won't tell anyone without y'all's permission, alright?" 

 

"Thank you, Sam." Steve rests his hand on the man's shoulder, a look of relief crystal clear on his features. 

 

"No problem," the beta smiles, "now, I'll show you guys to your place, yeah?" 

 

The house is huge compared to the ones they had been staying in before. It's a log style with two stories, two bedrooms and a master bed room -- all with their own bathrooms -- plus an attic that could easily be split into two more bedrooms. It's exactly the type of house Bucky had voiced his longing for to Sam, and he nearly slaps the man out of excitement when he realizes that saving this specific house was intentional. 

 

"I'll let ya'll get settled in," he says, "I'll see you in the morning," then he's walking back down the street, the sunset darkening his silhouette to just a dark figure, and entering his own home three doors down. 

 

The twins end up sharing one of the regular bedrooms, and Peter takes the other. After saying goodnight to them, Bucky is standing in the master room with his bag slung over his shoulder debating on how to offer Steve the master bedroom when the man sneaks up on him. 

 

"Hey," he stands awkwardly before the omega, his evergreen scent surrounding them. "So, uhm, I have somethin' I want to ask you-, and please, don't feel pressured to say yes or anything, I just-."

 

Bucky puts him out of his misery, "you wanna share the room, don't'cha?" He asks with a grin. Steve nods, dumbfounded. "Sure, I wouldn't mind. You're pretty touch-starved, I bet. We can share," he waves a hand towards the king sized bed. "Bed's sure as hell big enough." 

 

Steve looks happy that Bucky has said yes, but he's still hesitant. "Are you sure. . ? I don't want you to feel pressured or anything. I know you've been takin' care of me more than you're probably used to, but. . ."

 

Bucky tosses his new duffle -- because he had lost his old one during the Walmart trip -- into the room's walk-in closet and flops onto the bed with a groan. 

 

"Steve!" He motions for the alpha to join him. "I had to fuckin' raise a kid, starting from the age of eight. Taking care of you is like walking an old dog, not a puppy," and he's not sure Steve really understands that, because Bucky doesn't even fully get it, but the soldier laughs and collapses next to him. 

 

Burrying his face into the soft sheets, Bucky toes off his boots and socks. "'M gonna sleep forever," he sighs blissfully. "So comfy." 

 

"Yeah," the alpha agrees with a similar tone, shedding his dark brown jacket and the old, worn sneakers that Bucky had gifted him with. "Feels like a marshmallow."

 

Bucky whines, neglecting to hear the hitch in Steve's breath, and crawls under the duvet. "S'mores, Steve. . . another thing I miss, love chocolate." 

 

Steve chuckles from his side of the bed, laying on his side to face the door as Bucky sleepily reminisces about the sticky treat. He's close enough for his back to brush against the omega's when they breath, and the comforting presence lulls the brunet into a drifting state of mind. 

 

It's a beautiful thing, Steve's laugh, powerful and attention-grabbing. The omega loves it, loves the way the blond's eyes light up when he laughs with his whole body, grabbing at his stomach while he laughs. Bucky loves the way the man will sometimes lose himself in laughter, usually after Peter has done something particularly silly, and he doesn't think it'll ever stop giving him butterflies. He falls asleep to the sound, and to the ideas he conjures up of ways that would allow him to hear that laugh every day for the rest of his life. 

Chapter Text

When Steve wakes, Bucky is already outside on the porch having a conversation with an authoritative, brunette Beta. The omega is gesticulating wildly, but the look on his face is so serious that the blond can't gauge what he could possibly be talking about. Bucky is clean, and he no longer has a patchy beard, and it registers in Steve's mind that the neighborhood must have running water. The rising sun makes the omega take on a sort of glow that has the soldier feeling. . . something, and he quickly turns away from the window. 

 

He ambles to the bathroom, taking a moment to brush his teeth and splash some water over his face. He takes in his appearance with a grimace. His eyes are bloodshot, his hair is dirty and slept in, and he's pretty sure that's blood on his jawline. 

 

Light knocking on the bathroom door startles him. 

 

"Steve?" Pietro's voice carries in, "are you okay?" 

 

Huh, he must have been in there longer than he thought. He nods minutely before realizing the boy can't see him. "Yeah, I'm good. Gonna take a shower, I'll be down in ten minutes." 

 

The boy's voice is muffled this time, coming from halfway down the hallway. "'Kay!" 

 

The water pressure leaves something to be desired, but it's a shower, and he's more relaxed than he has been - besides when he's in bed with Bucky. 

 

And hell if that doesn't put some savory thoughts in his head. 

 

Ten minutes later, he's pulling a sweater over his head with freshly clean hair and strolls downstairs and into the living room-slash- dining area where the twins are seated across from Peter and Sam. Peter is yammering excitedly about how he had fixed up the radio, "and then! We heard your voice, Sam," he chirps, and proceeds to nearly topple forward off the couch. 

 

Bucky catches his eye through the screen door, and he gives the alpha a smile. 

 

Steve interprets this as an offer to join him outside, so he does. 

 

"Mornin'," Bucky says. The woman from before is gone, having walked past Steve to join Sam and the kids in the living room as he approached the door. 

 

"Hey," he answers with a smile, one of the few that isn't forced. "Sleep well?" 

 

Bucky nods, leaning forward with his forearms against the wooden porch railing. "Pretty good, honestly. You?" 

 

"Like a baby," which he knows isn't the best comparison, because babies like to wake up  crying, bur he's heard the omega say it so many times that it's ingrained into his own vocabulary. "What's the plan for today?" 

 

"Sam and Maria are going to show us around the neighborhood, maybe introduce us to some of the folks, then they're gonna tell us more about this Shield-Hydra shit." 

 

Sam meets them outside just moments later, "Maria is going to show the kids where the others hang out while I give you the grand tour." 

 

The neighborhood is a fairly large settlement that Sam has nicknamed the Nest, something that Steve doesn't understand even though Bucky seems to find it hilarious. The Nest spans across just a couple of blocks each way, ending with a large community clubhouse that Sam calls the White House. This, Steve does understand. 

 

While the neighborhood doesn't have a president, they do have several council members who are assigned a neighborhood zone to represent. It's democracy at its finest. Both Sam and Maria are members of the Council, as well as a woman named Hope, a man named Tony that he wouldn't talk much about, and a man named Stephen, who is said to "have the hots" for Tony. 

 

Steve thinks he has the hots for Bucky, but he isn't sure what to do about this fact. 

 

They circle back to their current house, and find a red haired woman sitting on their porch like it's her own. 

 

"Bucky, Steve," Sam says as the woman rises to her feet, and Steve catches the scent of Alpha. "This is Natasha, she works for Shield." 

 

"I wouldn't say that," she shrugs offhandedly, not revealing anything else, which has Steve wanting to pull Bucky close and away from her. He holds back a snarl as they take turns shaking hands. 

 

Natasha gives him a knowing smirk, "hey fellas," she tip her head in acknowledgement, sort of like the cowboys in old western films. She takes a long look at Steve, setting him even more on edge. "So, you're him." 

 

He shrugs, "maybe, I'm not sure who he is, though." 

 

A shark-like smile spreads across her features as she looks at Sam, "you didn't say Captain America is snarky." 

 

Sam shrugs, as if to say I didn't know. And that's right, he didn't know. 

 

"Alright," she sighs, a tendril of red hair falling out of her short ponytail. "I'll cut to the chase, Captain. Shield has been looking for you for a long time, practically since you crashed the Valkyrie. The fact that you're here and breathing changes everything." 

 

Bucky cuts in, "how so?" 

 

"Well, they were going to take out his brain," Steve takes notice of her detaching words. "Some of the scientists figured that Erskine's Serum must have something useful in it that could prevent the virus, but they can't really do that now, can they?" She huffs out a dry laugh, "so, instead, we called in a favor- or rather, an ally of Shield's called in a friend, and he thinks he can derive a vaccine from your blood." 

 

"My blood could fix this?" A million thoughts flash through Steve's mind, "he can put a stop to all this?" 

 

"It's a big maybe," Natasha says grimly. 

 

"Where would we have to go?" He can feel Bucky's watchful eyes snap over to him. 

 

"Doctor Banner is set up at the CDC facility in Atlanta," she says, never taking her eyes off of Steve. "You'll be expected there within two weeks," she leaves no room for a reply, somehow knowing exactly what Steve's decision is going to be. She prowls down the porch stairs, past a visibly irritated Bucky and a bemused Sam, and leaves in a remarkably clean pickup truck, driven by a man wearing a purple hoodie and sunglasses. 

 

Sam leaves the two newcomers as he spots Maria across the street, and Steve is left to face Bucky's harsh gaze by himself. 

 

The alpha careens to the left as Bucky brushes past him into the house. Steve follows, calling out the younger man's name, but he doesn't turn around. Instead, he goes straight upstairs and slams the door. 

 

The lock clicks into place, leaving Steve to wonder what exactly he had done to make the omega so angry with him. 

 

Steve reclines on the couch that night, eyes staring up at the ceiling, ears listening to the sound of nothing, the deafening sound of the surrounding silence.

Chapter Text

"Did I," Bucky doesn't look up from packing his bag as Steve pauses, unsure of how to phrase his question. "Did I do something wrong?" 

 

He stuffs in two flannels and a pair of jeans, then the omega simply says, "no, everything is fine." Steve doesn't enter the room, but he does linger in the doorway until the brunet looks up. "Is there anything else, Steven?" 

 

The alpha cringes, "you are mad at me." 

 

There's a long pause, then, "I'm not mad at you." 

 

Steve takes a step inside, "but you're mad at something, right?" 

 

Bucky shrugs and tucks a small first aid kit behind the shirts, then a satellite phone. Finally, he says, "I'm mad at them." 

 

Bucky has already decided that Peter and the twins will absolutely not be joining them on their trip, something he had informed Steve of that morning. Sam promised that he and Maria would take care of the kids while he and the alpha are gone. Apparently he's already told his shady military-scientist-government friends that they're coming. 

 

"Who's them?" Steve asks, this time grabbing his own bag, one that Sam had gifted to him after Pietro and Wanda used his last one as a tool for a game of tug of war. 

 

"Sam's government friends," the brunet zips the larger part of the bag and slides a pistol into the makeshift holster on the side where the water bottle holder had previously been. "They're treatin' you like a piece of meat, like you ain't human, like. . ." 

 

Bucky pauses for a long time, finishes checking and double checking his bag. 

 

"They're acting kind you're just Captain America, like you're just gonna sweep across the States killin' zombies left an' right." He swings his bag over his shoulder and pauses as he's halfway out the door. "It ain't right, Steve. . . I'll be in the truck. Don't take too long." 

 

Bucky bounds down the stairs, gives Peter and the twins each a long hug and a kiss on the forehead, and goes outside to start the truck. 

 

The truck is a lot like his old one, so it's probably something Sam found, seeing as they both have relatively similar tastes. It's an newer -- or older, if you count the past years where vehicles have not been mass produced -- model Ford, dark red in color and its raised just high enough that Bucky has to toss his bag in the back and use what he has dubbed the Oh Shit Handle to pull himself up into the driver seat. The added height will make it easier to push smaller vehicles out of the way, as well as taking out zombies without having to leave the truck. 

 

Steve comes out several minutes later, tossing his own bag into the back, and damn him: he climbs up into the passenger seat with ease. 

 

Bucky spares two brief honks and a wave to Sam and Maria at the gate, and then they're gone. Out in the open world again, away from the relative safety of Sam's neighborhood. 

 

It takes them half a day, but they make it to Atlanta without having to stop -- save for once when neither Steve or Bucky could hold off on relieving themselves any longer. 

 

The exterior of the Atlanta CDC office proves to be somewhat worrisome, at least - that's how Bucky feels. There's no sign of intelligent life, no military personnel or vehicles, no lights or checkpoints, nothing. As if that isn't enough, half of the fucking building is caved in, and it's still a smoldering mess. 

 

"This can't be good," Steve mutters, sparing a humorless glance at the omega beside him. 

 

Despite what one might think, there are not many zombies surrounding the building either. Bucky figures it has something to do with the smoke, though it might be attracting zombies. This theory has never been tested -- by him, at least. Sam hasn't radioed them, so perhaps the exterior is just too ward away unwanted company. This thought is immediately followed by Bucky not seeing how one could run an efficient scientific building when half of the building is, quite literally, fucked.

 

There's a dead military officer -- or, a man dressed like one -- slumped against the cracked but otherwise unbroken glass door, a bullet hole visible between his eyes. The is still trickling down the side of his nose and it drips from his jaw, though most of it has dried. After seeing him, both Bucky and Steve know that there was a fight here recently. 

 

Bucky pushes the body away from the door and pulls it open. Inside, there is silence. The duo sweep the ground floor together. They only find more of the deceased, and one working elevator which will only go down. 

 

So, of course, they go down. 

 

Down ends up being the way to go. No, there aren't any living people, but there are signs of them, even if the alpha and omega pair had trouble finding them. The biggest tip of all, evidently, is the polished shield propped against the wall with a note and bag taped to it. 

 

Rogers & Barnes, 

Had to evac, can't contact the Neighborhood, either, but give --- my best. Led enemy away. 44.018712 -92.482707.

Widow.

 

"These numbers," Steve says as he slides his shield into place, after he changed into the new suit, much to Bucky's unvoiced dismay. "Coordinates?"

 

"Definitely." The omega curses the blond in his mind. The dark navy suit looks damn good. As a distraction, he pulls out his map and snatches the note from Steve, who in turn squawks with indignation. 

 

"I was reading that." 

 

Bucky hums as his hands flatten the map over a clear space on the table. "Hush, I'm concentrating." 

 

Steve, of course, does not hush. "Let me see," he demands, trying to pull the map to him. 

 

The omega swats his hand away, "no." 

 

Such specific map reading is difficult enough on a map that actually has landmarks and whatnot labeled, but Bucky had been gifted this map from Peter. He had been about thirteen when he found it untouched in a gas station, but it had served them well enough. Now, though, he could only hope to pinpoint the city. And a city it was, several states away.

 

Well, fuck. 

 

Bucky lets out a long, suffering sigh. "We're going to Rochester, Minnesota."