“Nope,” Steve said, crossing his arms over his chest. “You’re not putting that on my face.”
The beta maid hovered back, soft brush dusted with rouge, and looked at the young man. “Omega Rogers, Alpha Rumlow has requested—”
“I. Don’t. Care.” Steve glared at the woman. “You can tell Colonel Rumlow to shove that makeup up his ass.”
Apparently that offended her sensibilities, and she dropped the brush in shock. “Omega Rogers, I understand that you’re nervous, but this is a happy occasion. It’s not everyday a beautiful omega like you is presented to society. You must be so excited.” She reached down to pick up the brush.
Yeah, excited wasn’t exactly the term Steve would use.
WWII had made significant changes to America. Lingering radiation had drastically reduced the omega population, and many alphas had died fighting in the war, leaving betas as the majority secondary gender.
There were other casualties too: namely, Mr. and Mrs. Rogers, Steve’s parents, during air raids over Brooklyn. He’d originally been sent to a house for war orphans at age 12, but his lithe frame, pale skin, and sunny blond hair had proven his undoing. Not to mention that, at 12, he’d already presented as omega, and was therefore instantly desirable.
To Steve’s horror, he’d been ‘adopted’ by Alpha Rumlow, a retired Colonel and southern good-ol’-boy who lived in Virginia. The alpha had groomed Steve, and it was to the surprise of no one that the alpha intended to bond with the teen on his 18th birthday. A year prior, Rumlow’s subservient omega wife and mate had passed away—under suspicious circumstances, which Steve assumed meant the alpha had her killed to make space for Steve.
Which brought them to the clusterfuck that was this day. It was a week before Steve’s 18th birthday, and Rumlow was hosting a ball to introduce Steve to society, and to claim the small omega as his future bride. It wasn’t enough that Steve had been constrained to the manor grounds the entirety of his teenage years, friendless, knowing his eventual fate. Now the entire state, and visiting army higher-ups, would know his fate as well.
Steve shook himself out of his reverie to realize the maid was still speaking, and that she’d been applying the rouge and starting on the thick, black eyeliner while the omega was lost in thought.
“—so beautiful. It’s a shame about your temperament, though. So willful. But Alpha Rumlow will cure you of that. He’s a firm hand and efficient with a whip, which I have no doubt you need. It’s a shame he isn’t able to start with it before your bonding.”
“Fuck that shit,” Steve said, knocking the woman’s hand away from his eye. The dark and chalky pencil drew a line across his cheek. “The moment I let some asshole alpha hit me is the moment I hit back.”
The maid tutted sourly, wiping the errant line from his cheek. They both knew Steve couldn’t take Rumlow physically, even if the alpha had both hands tied behind his back. Steve was small, even for an omega. With Rumlow’s wealth and access to physicians, the teen had been cured of most of his childhood ailments, but his growth had been permanently stunted by them.
A bell rang through the manor, alerting them that the ball would start in one hour. Another beta maid rushed in, holding the snowy-white velvet suit Steve was to wear that night. The omega rolled his eyes as she hung it on a hook. Virginal and ostentatiously rich, just like everything Steve’s past 5 years had been.
Sealing her work with a fine powder, the first maid stepped back to examine Steve’s face. His naturally pink cheeks had been highlighted an unnatural shade of red, dark lines circled his bright blue eyes, and his plump lips were a shiny pink.
“I look like a fuckin’ prozzie,” Steve said, growling.
He itched to wipe the makeup off, but knew it would only result in a beating. Of course, the beating would be from one of the beta manservants—Alpha Rumlow was forbidden from laying a hand on the omega until they were bonded. The alpha’s estate was entirely staffed by betas; omegas were too rare and usually mated to wealthy businessmen or politicians, and Rumlow would never have allowed another alpha to live on his grounds. It was bad enough that the visiting army men would mostly be alphas; Steve didn’t look forward to Rumlow posturing all night.
“You look lovely,” the second beta maid said earnestly. She was generally kind to Steve, although in a detached way.
“Just as lovely as a whore at the docks,” he spat. “Yay for me.”
The first maid narrowed her eyes and pinched Steve, hard, on his bare upper arm. He yelped, and growled at the woman.
“Stand up, Omega Rogers,” the second maid said. “Let’s get you dressed.”
The Next Morning
Clouds of dry dirt kicked up under Steve’s feet as he strode angrily towards the stables. Two beta manservants hurried after him, with orders that the omega was to be chaperoned at all times until the bonding ceremony was completed.
“Will you two just fuck off?” Steve whispered, directed at the men but too silent for them to hear.
He’d already been beaten this morning for his behavior at the ball the previous evening. Apparently, his polite words were cancelled out by the sneer that had been inadvertently plastered to his face. Steve had actually tried for once, hoping that a good show in front of Rumlow would save him whippings once they were bonded. But even the thought of future beatings couldn’t prevent the disdain from marring his delicate features.
The manservants eyed the dirt unhappily. Steve’s white riding ensemble, despite the tall black riding boots, was already showing discoloration. The ensemble was high-necked, keeping Steve’s unblemished bond mark site hidden to prevent others from becoming to interested in the virgin skin. Unlike the previous night, where the velvet suit had been low-cut to show off Steve’s virginal and unbonded status. The omega was pissed off; the high collar was itchy and chaffed against his sensitive skin.
Steve strode into the stables, banging the swinging doors behind him. He stopped at his prized mare’s stall, and let out his first real smile in several days.
“Hey there, babycakes,” he said softly to the pure white mare. Her name was Avenger, and she was the only gift from Rumlow that Steve had ever appreciated. “You miss me?” He reached through the stall bars to stroke her nose.
A quiet squeak came from inside the stall, followed by the sound of hay rustling. A boy—no, young man—popped up next to Avenger, face flushed.
“Who the fuck are you?” Steve said, both surprised and angry. He didn’t like other people near his horse, and the beta stable hands were under strict orders to leave the feeding and grooming of the mare to the omega.
“I-I’m-I’m James,” the beta stuttered out.
“And what the fuck do you think you’re doing in there?” Steve narrowed his eyes at the other man.
James was large for a beta, though his hunched posture made him seem smaller than his broad shoulders suggested. He was wearing loose work clothes, though they were worn out and ill-fitting. His limp brown hair was tied back in a low ponytail, errant locks surrounding his tanned face.
“Look at me when I’m talking to you,” the omega said. He was so sick of the manor betas and their faked subservience. The betas either didn’t like him or were indifferent. Steve knew of at least two beta maids who hated the omega with a burning passion, because they’d been temporary bed warmers of Rumlow and had aspirations of rising in stature as his wife.
Trembling, the beta looked up at Steve, tears in his eyes as he took in the angry omega. He shrunk back into himself further, twisting his left hand behind his back in a practiced nervous motion.
“Shit,” Steve said, holding up his hands placatingly, the angry expression falling from his face to be replaced by one of concern. “Shit. Fuck. I—sorry. I thought—no, it doesn’t matter what I thought. Why are you in my stall?”
“I was told that it was my job to muck it out.”
“You new here or something?” At James’s nod, Steve sighed. “Whoever told you that was fuckin’ with you. This is my stall, and no one is allowed to take care of Avenger except me.”
“You-you’re the omega?” James’s eyes got wider. “I-I’m so sorry, sir. I didn’t—I didn’t know.” As a beta, the stable hand wouldn’t have been able to scent the difference.
“Yeah, I can see that.” Steve sighed as the beta manservants caught up to him.
“Omega Rogers,” one of them said. “You know you’re not allowed to roam without a beta chaperone.”
“I’ve got one. James, the stable boy. He’s going to take me riding, aren’t you, James?” Steve glanced at the beta, raising one eyebrow. The pleading was evident in his expression.
“Yes-yes sir,” James said.
“See?” Steve glared at the manservant. “Fully chaperoned. Plus, this way you don’t have to pretend you like horses. You two can just wait here for me, drinking that moonshine swill in your hip flask, shooting the shit with the stable girls.”
Without waiting for a response, the omega flung open the door to the stall. He mouthed a thank you to James, who attempted to smile at the mouthy omega.
“I’ll saddle up Avenger, you grab the horse in the next stall.” Steve pointed to his right. Next door was Marvel, Avenger’s sister, a horse golden like Steve’s hair. James nodded and slipped out, giving Steve a wide berth.
Within twenty minutes, their horses were saddled. When they prepared to mount their horses outside the stables, Steve noticed with pleasure that James didn’t attempt to give him a hand up. The omega was used to the beta stable hands assuming he couldn’t mount the tall horse on his own. This beta, however, had just assumed that Steve was completely capable on his own.
As they trotted away, Steve mentioned this to James. “You didn’t attempt to help me mount Avenger.” His voice was pleasant, but the glance he gave the beta penetrating.
“I—so sorry, sir. Please—please don’t mention this to the stable master? I thought—you seem like a capable rider, sir.”
“Too fuckin’ right,” Steve said, chuckling. “It’s nice to be treated like I’m actually competent for once. You have any idea how shitty it feels to be treated like a damn porcelain doll all the time?”
James was silent for a moment, before he spoke. “No?”
Steve laughed coldly. “It was a rhetorical question, but lemme tell you, it blows chunks. Thanks for letting me have this, though. A chance to pretend at being a real person instead of Rumlow’s property, especially this week.”
“It’s your—you and Alpha Rumlow—you’re—”
“Yeah, getting hitched in six days. If I don’t kill myself first, that is.”
“Don’t say that,” James said, looking up sharply at Steve. “There’s always a better way. You don’t—trying to kill yourself won’t make it better. Trust me, I know.”
“You know,” Steve said sardonically. “You know what it’s like to try to kill yourself. To have no identity other than that which has been thrust upon you by a powerful fuckin’ alpha, no chance to be yourself?”
“Yes.” James stared down at his leather-gloved hands, gripping the reins of his horse tight. “I do.”
“How?” Probably not a respectful or tactful thing for Steve to ask, but the omega was both curious about his riding partner and in desperate need of a distraction from his own situation.
“I-I-I was in the war. Signed up under a false name, lied about my age and designation, shipped out the next week. Or at least that’s what—that’s what they told me. There was a bomb. Shelling. I woke up in a hospital, a few day’s ride from here. Without—with no memories. Maybe two months ago—I don’t know how-how-how long I was in a coma, but it was y-y-years. Tried to kill myself after I woke up, but failed. Failed a lot of things, apparently.”
“Shit,” Steve said, whistling under his breath. “That’s fucked up.”
“Yeah,” James said, small sad smirk on his face. “Army gave me a name to use that probably wasn’t mine and sent me here. Indentured—that’s what they’re calling it, but—but they don’t—they didn’t know what to do with me.”
“Decent sob story. I give it an 8 out of 10.” Steve mock clapped, but James could see the genuineness in the omega’s eyes.
The beta blushed. “You’re an ass.” Then his eyes widened as he realized he’d just insulted the omega, who was engaged to Alpha Rumlow himself.
But Steve just laughed. “You bet I am. You’re a decent guy. Most betas here would report me for threatening to kill myself, and I’d wind up with a beating and round-the-clock protection.”
“Yeah, well, most betas here don’t have major brain damage.” James smiled softly at the omega, whose eyes widened before he broke out into riotous laughter.
“You fuckin’—you’re great.”
The small omega kicked James—softly, of course. “Wake up, asshole.”
It was pitch black outside, the stable was silent, and James was sleeping in a pile of hay in Avenger’s stall. “Whazzit—Stevie?” he said sleepily.
Steve clamped a hand over the stable hand’s mouth. “Keep your voice down. Grab anything important to you and meet me in the garage. We’re getting out of here.”
The beta blinked his eyes a few times, looking over the omega. Steve was wearing all black—given that Rumlow insisted the teen wear only white, James wondered briefly where he got it. A black rucksack on his back, likely holding his important belongings. There were also broad black smudges over the omega’s eyelids, a poor and campy semblance of camouflage.
To keep quiet, they pushed the stolen car half a mile down the road before starting it. Or, rather, James pushed the car while Steve steered. Apparently James didn’t know how to drive a car, so the omega stayed in the driver’s seat, even though omegas weren’t technically allowed to drive.
It was a sign of how tired James was that he didn’t say anything—or even process what was going on—until they were a mile away.
“Wait. St-stop. What—no, I can’t do this. We—we have to turn back. Maybe they won’t have noticed?”
“James,” Steve said, watching the beta’s eye tick under the black eyeshadow he’d forced on the other man’s face. “I’m not going back. There’s no fuckin’ way I’m going back, unless it’s kickin’ and screamin’, or dead in a pine box.”
He’d pulled the car to the side of the road and they were facing each other. Steve looked anxious to press on, but also strangely invested in getting James to understand how important this was to him.
“Why did you—why am I—what do you want from me, sir?” James asked softly, looking down at his gloved hands.
“What do I want? I want a fuckin’ friend. I want someone to call me by my name for once, instead of that ‘sir’ or ‘young omega’ bullshit. I want to be treated like a goddamn person instead of an object.” Steve was practically shouting, and then his face twisted sadly. “I just want a fuckin’ friend, James.”
James flinched, but looked up. “I’m sorry, sir—Steve. I’m sorry, Steve. I… want a friend too.” He smiled hesitantly.
Steve smiled back and turned the car back on, driving further down the road. “Why do you do that?”
“Flinch every time I say your name.”
“I don’t—yeah, okay. Maybe. It’s just—it’s just that it doesn’t feel like me? The army made it pretty clear that the info I enlisted with was-was-was fake. So it’s not my name. I don’t even know what my name is.”
“Well, that’s a shitty situation. You ever going to get your memories back?” Steve asked overly casual, but knew it was likely an important question for James.
“No. That’s what the doc-doctors told me. Too long without oxygen. I was technically dead for a few minutes—a couple of times. Ne-ne-never going to come back.”
“Then is there something else you’d like me to call you? I can give you some options: Baron von Buttface, Mr. Motherfucker, Colonel Cocksucker?”
James blushed a violent red at Steve’s language. “No.”
“Well, what was your full name? Your full fake name, I mean.”
Pulling out the dog tags he still wore around his neck, James read the raised letters, even though he was familiar with the words intimately. James couldn’t read—at least, not well after the brain damage—but he’d memorized these words. “James Buchanan Barnes, Alpha, DOB 3/10/1917.”
Steve laughed—the beta was clearly in his early 20s at most. “Well, given that you’re not a 30-year-old alpha, it’s probably a pretty safe bet that’s not you. How about… Jamie?” The beta shook his head no. “Barney?” A more emphatic head shake. “Bucky?”
The man paused, tilting his head in a way that Steve tried to convince himself wasn’t adorable.
“You’re adorable when you do that, you know,” Steve said. Shit, he hadn’t meant to say that out loud.
“Thanks, I guess. But we… can try Bucky for now?” the beta—Bucky—said hesitantly.
“Well, Bucky my boy, I can work with that. Speaking of names,” the omega said with a wicked grin. “Did you know you called me ‘Stevie’ this morning?”
“I did not,” Bucky said, drawing himself up straight. “You must be getting hard of hearing in your advanced age.”
“So says the 30-year-old.”
“Mmhmm. That’s how you know it’s true—older and wiser.”
“By the way, where-where-where are we going?” At that moment, the beta realized something that hit him hard—the omega had never once made fun of his stutter. After everyone (the army, the betas at the manor, the doctors) had treated him as less-than for his broken speech and other brain-injury-related weaknesses, Steve had never even acknowledged it.
“Brooklyn? As in New York? Is it still standing?”
“I dunno. Probably. Part of it got bombed out during the war, but not all of it. Besides, Brooklyn kids are like cockroaches—you can’t kill ‘em.”
“Were you from Brooklyn?” Bucky asked quietly. He didn’t know much about the young omega other than he liked to swear like a sailor and he was beautiful. Wait, what?
“Yeah, before it got bombed. Lost my folks there.”
“Sorry.” They rode in silence a few minutes before Bucky spoke again. “What are we going to do once we’re there?”
Steve shrugged. “I’ve got enough for us to get an apartment, though fair warning it’s probably going to be a fuckin’ shithole. And then, we work.”
“Can you work?” Bucky peered at the small teen. The beta would have no problem getting a job in a warehouse or factory, but for a small omega there weren’t many available jobs.
“Brooklyn’s got docks. I might’ve been sheltered in that fuckin’ manor for the last 5 years, but I know what goes on down there. And I’m not above whoring myself out.” Steve’s voice was steel. “I ain’t better than a prozzie, but I’m no worse either.”
“I’m not going to say I like that. I—I want to scream at you and tell you not to do—to do that,” Bucky said quietly. “But it’s not—it’s not my—I don’t have any right to say that. It’s your life, and you’re my… friend. And-and-and I will support you. But if you don’t—you don’t want to do that, we can figure something else out. Promise me that you’ll think on it?”
“Yeah, maybe,” the omega said flippantly, full of forced bravado. “We’ll see.”
“How long ‘til Brooklyn?”
“Maybe two days. We’re going to be taking a long route, doubling back. We’ll need to switch out this car for another one; don’t want Rumlow tracking us. Just sit back, relax, and we’ll be there before you know it.”
Three Days Later
Steve had been right—the apartment they’d managed to secure was a fuckin’ shithole. It was in a run-down tenement building and, although their lease was week-by-week, other units in the building were rented by the hour. That wasn’t exactly a downside, though, Steve thought—when he went through with his plan to work the docks, he’d need a place to bring Johns, and he didn’t really want them in his and Bucky’s apartment.
Bucky had, unsurprisingly, been able to get a warehouse job almost immediately. The lack of alphas after the war made the company desperate, more willing to settle on a beta for the manual labor.
While Bucky was out applying for jobs, Steve had gone out as well. A resale shop provided him with several sets of second-hand clothes for him and Bucky. He’d also visited a pharmacy and spent much of the rest of his money on rubbers, lube, and birth control pills. He wasn’t sure whether he’d be expected to provide the protection, but he sure as hell wasn’t going to get knocked up by some knothead John. But Steve didn’t mention this other purchase to Bucky—even though the beta had expressed dislike of the plan, he’d also been clear in saying that he wouldn’t tell Steve not to do it. In fact, Bucky had said that he didn’t have any right to tell Steve what to do, with his life or with his body. It was very different from the way the smaller man was used to being treated, where an omega’s body was viewed as a commodity.
Spreading their dwindling money on the apartment table, the omega looked at Bucky in frustrated shock.
“I can’t believe I forgot, I’m so fuckin’ stupid. Put your coat on, we’re going out.”
“Wh-where? You’re not st-stupid, Steve,” Bucky said, obeying the smaller man and also pulling on his shoes. “You’re smart. You can read, talk without stuttering, and aren’t sl-slow like I am. You-you’re the smartest—the smartest guy I know.”
“You’re not stupid, Buck, and I don’t every want to hear that bullshit coming out of your mouth, you hear me?” Steve grasped the taller man’s cheeks and forced the beta to look at him. His eyes sparked—the omega was angry. “You’re not fuckin’ stupid. So you can’t read. So you talk funny. So thoughts don’t come to you as quickly as others. So fuckin’ what? I can read enough for the both of us, and it’s pretty obvious that I speak too much anyway. Now come on, asshole, we’ve got places to be.”
Steve stalked to the door and pulled it open forcefully, not waiting to make sure Bucky was following him. Of course the beta was, though. He would follow his om—Steve anywhere. But Bucky was surprised when the omega led them into a bank, a 20-minute walk from their apartment.
“I would like to speak to a banker, with the assumption that all business conducted will be confidential,” Steve said confidently to a teller.
The beta woman raised an eyebrow at the small teenager but motioned for them to sit in the waiting area while she fetched a banker. Within minutes, an alpha banker came and led them back to his office. The man looked at Bucky, expecting the beta to speak, but was surprised when the short and beautiful omega started talking with a clear and strong voice.
“I want to check my account balance, change the name on my account, and open up an account for my friend,” Steve said, gesturing at Bucky. “And I want to ensure that all this information remains privileged and will not make its way out of this institution.” He plunked a large, ruby-studded brooch down on the desk—an original Harry Winston, that he’d been gifted by Rumlow for his 17th birthday—and nodded sagely as the banker subtly slipped the high-priced jewelry into his pocket.
“That can be arranged, sir,” the alpha said, looking at Steve with respect and a bit of curiosity, and not a small bit of lust. He withdrew a piece of paper and scribbled down some notes. “Write down your current name, the name you want it replaced with. And your beta… friend… should write his name as well.”
Bucky looked at Steve puzzled, and the omega just smiled at him before accepting the pen the banker was offering. Steve knew that he couldn’t keep his name, in case Rumlow came looking for him. But he didn’t worry as much about Bucky, as the beta was disposable to the alpha’s estate. In fact, they probably hadn’t even noticed the stable hand was missing, and would never connect his disappearance to the teenager’s.
Steve wrote something on the paper and hesitantly held it up, letting Bucky decide whether he wanted to write his name or have Steve write it for him. The beta smiled softly, taking the paper and pen from Steve—the omega had been able to ask the question of whether Bucky was able to write without embarrassing him in front of the alpha.
Slowly, painfully so, Bucky tried to read the note. He stopped at Steve’s clear handwriting, taking time to sound out the words in his head. Name: Steven Grant Rogers. New name: Steven Barnes. Bucky looked up at the omega sharply, but Steve just smirked. With a blush and a sigh, Bucky wrote his full name as well: James Buchanan Barnes. He’d seen it enough times on his dog tags to be able to get its spelling correct, even if it was in shaky and childish block letters.
The banker took the paper from Bucky and headed to the back records room. Bucky looked at Steve, who shrugged.
“I hocked papers on the corner when I was a punk kid, put every dime into savings. Was planning on going to college and being a fuckin’ artist, could you believe it?”
“You took my name.”
“Seemed easiest,” Steve said, falsely nonchalant. “If it makes you uncomfortable I can always change it back.”
“It’s fine,” Bucky said, staring down at his gloved hands. He was embarrassed by the glee he felt, but also had a pang of guilt run through his chest. Steve didn’t know anything about him—hell, he didn’t know anything about himself. He didn’t deserve this beautiful, pure, smart omega’s friendship. The teen, as if sensing his friend’s self-deprecating thoughts, teasingly flicked the man’s thigh to stop it.
The banker was coming back, two sheets of paper in hand. “Omega Barnes, your account name has been changed, and you currently have $124 in savings.” Steve smiled—that’d be enough to cover at least two months’ rent and some new clothes for them both. “Beta Barnes, it looks like you actually already have an account with us. Your balance is currently $47,892.”
A Few Hours Later
“Still can’t believe you didn’t take any of that fuckin’ money,” Steve said. “We could’ve been living the easy life right now.”
“It’s not mine to take. Whoever the real James Barnes is, maybe he’s got a wife, a husband, a f-f-family. I can’t—I can’t take it away from him.”
“Your morals are a real bitch, you know that, Buck.”
“Yeah,” the beta said looking down and trying not to grimace.
Taking the real James’s money had certainly been tempting, but the thought tied Bucky’s stomach in too painful of knots. The flipside, of course, was that the lack of money meant that Steve was still planning on selling himself at the docks. But the omega had agreed with Bucky’s reasoning that stealing the money was bad, and there were no hard feelings. Of course, they’d also agreed that, in an emergency, they’d go back to that bank and take it without question.
“Today’s my birthday.”
“Happy birthday, Stevie,” Bucky said, looking across the apartment’s small table at his friend. They were eating dinner—rice and beans, which was all Bucky knew how to make. “I didn’t get you anything. S-s-sorry.”
“Not why I’m bringing it up. You don’t need to get me presents, asshole. But it’s—I’m eighteen. And I know I was holding off until I was legal to try… working at the docks. And—no, it’s stupid, nevermind.” The omega got up and took his bowl to the sink, rinsing it out.
“Whatever it is, I’m sure it’s not stupid.”
Steve sighed. “I can’t keep putting it off, Buck. We’re going to run out of money soon, and it’s probably time for me to start working. I know you’re not too keen on it, but it’s the best solution. I can’t get a real job as an unbonded omega, and I’m not going to go find some random knothead to bond me just so I can be a secretary or something.”
“I know,” Bucky said quietly. “It’s all your choice, and I’ll sup-support whatever you decide.”
“I don’t—” the omega swallowed awkwardly, still facing the sink “—I’m a virgin, and I don’t want my first time to be some anonymous fuck in an alleyway.”
“Would—fuck, this is—would you fuck me?”
“I—” Bucky felt like throwing up. “You don’t knock what you’re saying. You don’t want that, Stevie.”
“The fuck you say, asshole?” Steve turned around, eyes showing both fear and anger. “You saying I don’t know my own mind? Or maybe like every other asshole I’ve ever met you're insinuating that’s it’s that time of the month and I can’t make rational decisions? I’ve heard that one enough. Fuck you.” He spat, directly into Bucky’s face.
Using a sleeve, the beta wiped the saliva from his cheek and looked at the teen with sad eyes. “I meant that you-you-you don’t want me. You shouldn’t want me.”
“I’ve never—I don’t know how—”
“You a virgin, Buck?” Steve asked, anger replaced with surprise.
“Well, I definitely don’t have any memory of sex,” Bucky said, blushing.
“But the last two months, why—there must’ve been beta bitches throwing themselves all over you.”
“Yeah, but I—I didn’t want them to see—” The beta stopped, arm twitching.
“See what, Bucky?” Steve walked closer to the other man, looking into his eyes with concern.
Bucky sighed and stepped back, taking off the gloves he never went without and tugging the shirt over his head. Steve gasped audibly. The beta’s left arm was a prosthetic, made of a silver metal, strapped across his chest to cover the stump of his upper arm. There was scar tissue surrounding it, red and inflamed and poorly healed. Whoever had amputated Bucky’s arm had been an absolute butcher.
“I know it’s disgusting, and it’s okay if you need me to move out,” the beta said, reaching for his shirt.
“You shut the fuck up,” Steve said, not unkindly, crowding into his friend. “Can I—” His hand hovered over the seam where skin met metal, asking for permission to touch. Bucky nodded. “Does it hurt?”
Steve leaned forward and rested his head on Bucky’s chest, warm breath tingling against the scars. “I still—I’d still like you to be my first. You’re still my best friend, Buck, no matter what.”
In a moment of bravery, Bucky replied, “Okay. Which—um, which did you want to be? On top or on b-b-bottom?”
“You’re giving me a choice? Me, a fuckin’ omega, a breeding hole? Yeah, okay, that was too harsh on myself, you don’t have to yell at me for that,” Steve smirked wryly. “But I’m still surprised that you—betas don’t bottom to omegas. That’s not how it’s done.”
Bucky shrugged. “It’s done however we want to do it.”
“That is way too much for me to think about right now. But I kinda just want to make sure that whatever ends up going on at the docks, I’m ready for, you know? So, um, no kissing, but” the omega said, blushing. “Can I suck you off and then let you fuck me?”
47 Minutes Later
“What the fuck! Fuckin’—you fuckin’—Buck!” Steve groaned, the pain in his ass only increasing.
Bucky could barely speak, his breaths coming in pants, forehead plastered against the omega’s back. “Omega.”
“Yeah, I’m a fuckin’ omega. Who has a fuckin’ knot in their ass right now. Goddamnit Bucky, you’re a fuckin’ alpha?” The omega tried to pull away from the larger man but couldn’t.
“Don’t have knot,” Bucky mumbled, still knotted inside of Steve. He gasped as Steve’s wiggling caused him to spurt his seed into the omega again.
“Guess what, fuckwad. You definitely do. And it’s currently stuck. In. My. Ass. You motherfucker.” Steve tried to turn around to slap Bucky but the movement jostled the knot in his ass just so perfectly against his prostate that he himself orgasmed (again), covering his own stomach with his spend.
“Wait, what?” Bucky seemed to be becoming more lucid. “I—oh fuck, Stevie, what—” He began to panic, trying to get the omega off of his knot, which only made them both feel more pleasure.
“Stop it, asshole,” Steve hissed. “Just… stay still until it goes down. Then we can talk about whatever the fuck just happened, deal?”
Bucky rested his forehead against Steve’s back and nodded. He cautiously circled the omega’s waist and, feeling no resistance, held the smaller man close to him. He felt the teen shaking in his arms. As Bucky’s knot began to recede, the teen’s hysterical laughter turned to sobs. Steve, the strongest and most confident omega—no, person—Bucky knew, was having a breakdown. Tears escaped from the alpha’s eyes. He’d hurt Steve, his friend, his om—nope, couldn’t think like that.
Eventually Bucky softened enough to slip out of Steve, and both men rolled onto their backs, far enough apart to not be touching, staring at the ceiling.
“What the fuck was that?” Steve said softly. The omega was covered in slick and seed, but didn’t make a move to get out of the wet spot forming underneath him.
“But I’m a beta. They told me—the army doctors, they-they told me I was a beta. I don’t smell like an alpha, I don’t—I’ve never kn-knotted before, I’m pathetic and weak and submissive.”
“Yeah, well, apparently they were wrong.”
“I would never—never have agreed to do that if I’d known, Steve. You have to believe me. Never even touched you—never knot without consent. Fuck,” Bucky said, starting to cry softly. “I am so sorry.”
“Hey,” Steve said, wiggling his hand over so his outer fingers touched Bucky’s. “I don’t regret it. Wish I’d been a bit more stretched first, sure, and maybe had some advance warning, and you’re lucky as fuck I’m on birth control otherwise I’d probably be tearing you a new one, but I’m kind of blissed out on hormones right now from being knotted by my al—I mean, an alpha. Oh fuck.” The omega withdrew his hands and covered his face.
Bucky couldn’t bring himself to speak, but he made a small questioning noise.
“I like you, alright? Fuck it, Buck. I like you a lot. And when you were—I mean, when we thought you were a beta, it didn’t matter for shit, because it’s not like we could bond or anything. But now—fuckin’ hell. Now it’s just in my sight, just out of my grasp. Because we can’t—”
“What can’t we do?” the alpha asked quietly. “In all the time I’ve kn-known you, you never—you never let anyone tell you what you can and can’t do.”
“Doesn’t matter. Doesn’t fuckin’ matter.” The omega let out a small huff. “Not like you’d be interested anyway. Rumlow was only interested ‘cause he didn’t really know me, and he thought he’d be able to beat me into submission. But face it, I’m a mouthy piece of shit, don’t know when to quit, and the day I let some alpha tell me what to do is the day I’m dead and meeting the great Alpha in the sky.” Steve removed his hands from his face and dropped them back to his sides.
Slowly, telegraphing his moves so as to not startle the omega, Bucky brought his hand close to Steve’s again and interlaced their little fingers. “I like you. I like that you’re-you’re brash and bold and-and-and funny and strong.”
“If you say something like ‘you complete me,’ I’m gonna have to leave,” Steve chuckled wetly. “Don’t pull no romance bullshit on me right now.” He tightened his little finger back around Bucky’s. “Gotta say, not really feeling up to playin’ prozzie tonight.”
“You don’t have to go—not tonight, or not ever if you don’t want. We-we can figure something out. Don’t—I’ll support you no matter what, but don’t rush that decision. Don’t do something you’ll regret.”
“Yeah,” Steve said, sighing. “My ass still hurts anyway. Next time I’m on top.” He rolled to his side, tugging Bucky to spoon behind him.
“Okay, omega,” Bucky whispered into the nape of Steve’s neck. “I’d like that.”
The Next Day
Deciding to take a few days before committing to a life of sex work, Steve found himself with empty mornings and afternoons while Bucky worked. To kill time, he went to the library down the street.
“Hi there, ma’am,” he said to the woman working the returns desk. She was an older woman, but Steve could tell from her scent that she was an omega—a bonded omega, judging by the scarred bite on the side of her neck. “Don’t suppose you’ve got Brooklyn High yearbooks anywhere around here?”
She looked at the teen and smiled. Unbonded omegas were rare, and often made other omegas want to take care of them. Outside of the omega’s heat, and barring any rutting or feral alphas, there tended to be no real risk to an unbonded omega—at least, during the daytime in well-lit and well-populated areas. But the woman’s protective and maternal instinct remained.
“In the basement. Go down the steps, take a right, and look for row J.”
“Thanks, ma’am,” Steve said. And his tutors claimed he hadn’t a single mannerly bone in his body—ha! Just never had met anyone who deserved manners, more like.
Downstairs, the teenager found what he was looking for—Brooklyn High yearbooks from 1930-1935. Assuming that the real James Barnes had gone to Brooklyn High, given that he had a local bank account, there might be a picture of the man in there. And they could find out whether he was still alive, whether he knew Bucky, whether he—
Shit. Shit fuck. Steve stared at the yearbook, and at the 15-year-old Bucky staring back at him, the handsome picture labeled James Barnes. Apparently the men at the army hospital had, confused by Bucky’s young appearance and seemingly beta designation, assumed he’d been enlisted under an alias.
But there was no way Steve could just leave it there, right? What if Bucky had a family who’d been looking for him? With a sigh, the omega closed the yearbook and headed back to the friendly librarian.
“If I wanted to find someone’s records, like whether they had living family, and I’ve got their name and date of birth, how can I do that?”
“Well, aren’t you a curious young man. What is this for?”
“Just trying to help a friend, ma’am,” Steve said, blushing. “See whether he’s got family.”
“Good for you. Now let’s see, there should be a record back here of all recorded births and deaths. What was the name you were hoping for?”
“James Buchanan Barnes, born March 10, 1917.” He leaned on the counter, trembling. What if Bucky had family who wanted him back? Fuck, what if Bucky was married?
Twenty minutes later, the librarian returned with a slip of paper. “James Buchanan Barnes. Born 1917, declared MIA 1940. Mother Winifred Barnes, deceased 1941. Father George M. Barnes, deceased 1941. Sister Rebecca Barnes-Proctor, deceased 1941. Rebecca’s husband and children also deceased 1941.” She smiled sadly at Steve.
“I’m assuming August 30th, 1941?” he asked. At her nod, the omega sadly nodded back. That was the same major air raid that had killed his parents. “Thank you for finding this for me,” Steve said, accepting the piece of paper from her. “This will hopefully bring us—him—some closure.”
“Of course, young man. I just wish I had better news. Were there any other questions you had?”
“Yeah, actually. Are you hiring?”
Bucky walked into the kitchen after a long day of hauling crates, sank down into a chair, and started to take his boots off. He was startled when Steve dropped down into the chair next to him—he hadn’t even noticed the omega was in the room.
“I’ve got good-slash-bad news, bad news, and tentative news. Which do you want first?” Steve was bouncing his leg.
“None of th-that sounds promising,” Bucky said. “Bad news, then good-slash-bad, then… the once you’re not sure about.”
“Bad news, your feet smell fuckin’ terrible. Like you bathed them in dog shit and then a skunk sprayed ‘em and then you wrapped ‘em in garbage for the walk home.”
“Charming,” the alpha said, looking up at his om—the omega with a small smile.
“I know I am. Good-slash-bad news? Well, I know who you are.”
“I went to the library to look up the real James Buchanan, just in case he was dead and we could take his money, right? And I found his high school yearbook, only it was your yearbook. You’re James. I mean, you’re still my Bucky, obviously, but you’re the real James Buchanan. And you’re apparently loaded.”
“My name is James.” Bucky looked distant, eyes glazed. “I have a name, and it’s James. Stevie, you—wait, how is this bad news?”
“Well, for one thing, you’re apparently in your thirties, even if you don’t look it. But the other… I’m not sure how to say this, but you—damn it. Your family is dead; same air raid that took mine. I got their names, though. You had an older sister named Rebecca, and a nephew and a niece. They all lived together—your mom helped Rebecca raise the kids while her husband was at work.”
“Shit. That’s—shit. Thank you, Steve,” Bucky said, grasping for the omega’s hands and holding them to his heart. “This means—this means so much. I didn’t know them, but I—I still need to mourn them. That doesn’t even make sense.”
“It does, in a way. The librarian was able to give me the cemetery they’re buried in, and we could go visit when you’re ready.”
“I don’t d-d-deserve you,” the alpha said, casting his eyes down. He took off his leather work gloves, so that he could hold Steve’s left hand in his right. The omega slid his unheld hand into Bucky’s metal one.
“You haven’t asked about the tentative news yet, so let me tell you it anyway.” Steve bounced his leg, nervous. “I might have gotten a job at the library? They said my application looked good and it was pretty much approved except that they don’t accept unbonded omegas. Which is a load of sexist-ass bullshit, by the way.”
“Oh, Stevie, I’m so sorry you didn’t get the—”
“So I want you to bond with me.” The omega smiled cautiously at the man in front of him. “It’s not just for the job. It’s—fuck it, Bucky, I’ve been calling you ‘my alpha’ in my head since we ran away together, and I didn’t even know you were an alpha. I was gone from the moment you let me mount my horse myself. And I was just too fuckin’ stupid to notice.”
“Guess we were both too f-f-fuckin’ stupid, then,” Bucky said, smiling at their intertwined hands. “I was gone the first time you let me call you an ass.”
Steve burst out laughing, also staring at their hands. “So, I mean, I’m kinda springing a lot of shit on you at once, but—”
“I-I-I think I’d like to ki-ki-kiss—like to kiss you now.”
“Do it, alpha.” Steve smiled wickedly at the other man. “You gonna take me to bed and make me yours?”
“I’m going to take you to bed and make you—make you a—fuck, make you a fuckin’ librarian.”
Bucky stood and swept the smaller omega into his arms, and Steve couldn’t stop the laughter. He was going to be bonded to the most wonderful alpha he’d ever met, was going to get a real job as an assistant librarian, wasn’t going to have to whore himself out, and was going to live with his alpha comfortably off of Bucky’s bank account. He was going to be happy. Fuck that shit, he already was happy.