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Respectfully, James Barnes, JD.

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“You’ve got to be kidding me, Sharon,”  James groans,  snatching the giant folder from the top of her desk. “There’s more?”

“Yep,” She coos, with a swing of long blonde hair and a sharp, knowing smirk, “You’re gonna have to broaden your liaison with Rogers if you want Stark to keep up his end of the deal.”

“Why can’t you do it?” James whines, flipping through the assorted documents—forms, so many fucking forms—sent purely to inconvenience him, he’s certain. “You like him, don’t you? Head over there and show him some of your Carter magic. If anyone can get through to that hardass, it’s you and your smile.”

Sharon rolls her eyes. “They don’t want to hear from another assistant, Bucky, they want to negotiate with a partner—a named partner.”

Shit, Bucky thinks to himself, he was going to have to do this himself, wasn’t he?

See, James Barnes was good at what he did, and because if it, people usually came to him.

He turned expectations on their head everywhere he went—his area of work was very male-dominated, and almost entirely alpha-dominated.  And since Bucky, the long-anticipated heir of the prestigious Wiltshire-Barnes family, had presented omega all those years ago, everyone he’d known including his own parents had dismissed any thought of him ever becoming successful.

But besides being an omega, James had all of the traits that were necessary for someone to succeed in New York’s financial district. He’s naturally resilient and a quick-thinker, capable of rolling with the punches with a seamless grace. A costly education at Columbia Law gave him an extensive knowledge of the finance world—a knowledge he hoarded like gold, finishing Magna Cum Laude his graduating year. And so, against all odds, he did just what he’d set out to do. He went out and snatched himself a job—at one of his father’s opposing firms, nonetheless, and made a name for himself. He wasn’t the Wiltshire-Barnes heir anymore, he was James Buchanan Barnes, named partner at Barton-Barnes and Associates.

Which, normally, he wore like a badge of honor, because fuck you, he’d earned it, hadn’t he? Without a sprig of his families money or influence, he’d earned it; but today, he wanted to ball up the title and toss it down the hall.

If there was one place his gumption failed him, it was at the Rogers firm. Normally, they sent a lovely woman over to handle their affairs, Margret, he thinks is her name, but evidently, this time he’d be the one going to them. It was seldom for Bucky to find a match to his wits, his knowledge or even his spite—but CFO of Rogers & Co., Steven Rogers, possessed all three, and something Bucky didn’t: he was an alpha.

The two of them clashed violently almost every time they were in the same space, hence the lovely arrangement in which they kept their shared business profitable and didn’t have to suffer through each other’s presence. Bucky also knows that if Mr. Rogers could have gotten himself out of this meeting, he would have—which meant a sit-down meeting was being required by the third involved party, Mr. Anthony Stark.

That made Bucky squirm a bit. The prospect of entering either of those testosterone-infested firms made his skin all hot—but as his eyes skimmed the next few lines of the document, it's content made him wiggle a little, too.

Sharon, having been his assistant for a few years now, has grown adept at reading his expressions, so she grins at him. “Would you like me to take this to Barton for you?”

“No,” Bucky says, without hesitation. “No, no.”

“Great. Should I call and confirm the meeting then?”

“No, I didn’t say that.” He hums. “Call Lisa and ask her to fit me into Clint’s schedule this evening. I need to have a chat with him.”

James didn’t wait for his sassy assistant to respond. He started back towards his office, a giant corner office composed almost entirely of glass, and takes a seat behind his desk. Glancing down at the papers in his hands, he ghosts his fingers over the bottom of the page, where Steven Grant Rogers had already offered his signature. Even the curve of his name, the winding S and the big, looping G, made Bucky tepidly angry.

The form, however, was a non-disclosure agreement. Tony was dissolving Stark Finance, and he wanted to keep the ordeal under wraps, with his two oldest business partners to amicably split his clientele. Due to Rogers’ exceptional performance and his extensive client history, the split was listed as roughly 35-65.

Rogers, evidently, had already agreed. He could picture his smug little smile, and the the flop of his fluffy golden hair. It made Bucky sit there, simmering. Fuck it, he thinks. This is too important—and although he had absolutely nothing to prove as far as Clint was concerned, he would accept the challenge of fucking Steve Rogers out of a good deal.

“Sharon,” He leans forward and presses a button on his phone, “I’ve changed my mind. Call Stark and confirm the meeting.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes.” He huffs, “And have my gray suit dry cleaned in time for it.”

He loved the gray suit. It made his shoulders look a bit wider, and the rest of him a bit taller—ammunition he would need when walking into a building full of self-serving alphas.

 


 

He didn’t get to wear the gray suit. Among other things, the suit had been ruined by an intern rushing to bring him his morning coffee.

That was the first fault of the day. The second followed immediately afterwards, upon asking Sharon to have his car pulled around front. “It’s been towed.” She’d informed him, ruefully, “The valet took his smoke break when you left the keys on his stand. It’s been towed.”

Then came Clint’s orders. He’d popped into Bucky’s office, much like he was accustomed to doing, with a wave of his alpha scent—apples, spruce trees, and clean linen. Bucky thought his visit was to wish him good luck at the meeting. Instead, Clint had come in to tell him to “Be ruthless like a hawk,” which was Clint’s way of saying, “Don’t leave that office until you’ve gotten us the best possible deal, and fucked everyone else in there out of it”.

Anyone else would have buckled under that much stress, but Bucky had gotten really good at hiding his. He had to—especially as an omega at Columbia of all places—and he’d learned how to do it well. He took a deep breath. He thought he smelled cool, calm, and collected—and he hoped his omega nose wasn’t just defying him. Just in case, he ducks into his desk drawer and gives his pulse points a few sprays of Givenchy.

James couldn’t help but smile—not a happy smile, but a what the fuck, universe? kind of smile—and hurriedly slipped into the spare suit he kept in his office. It was a slim-fitted navy suit, one that made him look less tall and more fresh out of undergrad, but he didn’t have a choice, did he? Plus, if he thought about it too much, he’d psych himself out and have to go home to change before the meeting, which he desperately did not have time for.

So, he avoided Sharon’s judgmental eyes as he joined her on the walk to the elevators, and instead, focused his eyes down on his phone.

The doors ding shut, and Sharon whispers, “You need to calm down—I could smell you freaking out from the hall.”

Perhaps he wasn’t as good at that as he thought he was. His stomach churned. He was going to be ill. 

“Fuck,” Bucky bounces a little on his heels. “Yeah. Calm down. Got it.”

“Mr. Barton’s driver will take us to Stark Tower.”

“Yeah.” Bucky nods, willing himself to exude confidence, as much of it as he was capable of. He can do this, he thinks, closing his eyes. He'd stayed late last night and done most of the legwork, anyway. All that was left was to take control of the meeting and demand what it was he wanted. 

Suddenly, he didn't feel that ill anymore, because it was if he could already see the confusion etching its way into Steve's face. It would feel good—really good, to get the upper hand with that guy. He thought about their history for a moment; there was the DC deal, but Rogers had come out on top there, but Bucky had won their war over a large, government account last month. They were about even in their little game of tit-for-tat, but that would change today. 

Bucky was going to be certain that it changed, today.

With a resolved spring in his step, he slips out of the elevator, Sharon following close behind. By her relieved sigh, he knew he'd pulled himself together—at least enough that he didn't stink of anticipation anymore. 

"Mornin', Stan." Bucky calls, opening the sedan's door for Sharon. 

"Mornin', Mr. Barnes." The older driver drawls, his Brooklyn accent thick on the words. "Where'm I takin' ya?" 

With a self-satisfied sigh, he nods, "Stark Tower." 


 

Chapter Text


Stark Tower wasn't much to look at from the street. Not that it wasn't an absolutely gorgeous building—because it was—but because you couldn't really appreciate its beauty from that position. It's external beauty was best seen from the sky, where the black exposed beams could be seen running through prisms of glass, as almost the entire building was transparent, six-inch thick glass. 

Inside, however, it was a shit-show of wealth—and worst of all, Bucky loved it.

Now, Bucky didn't know if it was a rule here at Stark Finance, but the rumor was that Anthony Stark required all lower-ranking personnel to wear black. Head to toe, everyday. So, as Bucky and Sharon made their way through the lobby, Stark employees buzzed around them busily all dressed in eerily similar shades of black. The receptionist recognized Bucky immediately. He'd taken her on a few dates, back when he'd first begun climbing the ladder. As he approached, he suddenly realized that he didn't remember her name.

"Good Morning, beautiful." Bucky hums, and Sharon makes a muffled sound behind him. It sounded like she'd said 'Stop', but Sharon knew him too well by now—she'd known he'd forgotten the poor girl's name. Dot! She'd said Dot. "How are you, Dottie?"

"I'm doing well, Mr. Barnes." She smiles a soft smile back at him. "Mr. Stark and Mr. Rogers are on the 38th floor, in the Hogan conference room."

"Great." He offers a little tap on the desk. "Thanks, doll."  

Sharon's heels click behind him as they enter the elevator. "I know that look, Barnes." 

"What look?"

"The look Dot gave you. I've never noticed it before, but it was definitely the look."

"What look?" 

Sharon whispers all-too-loudly, "The we've-had-sex-before-and-now-it's-awkward look!" 

Just as the words leave her mouth, the elevator doors open. They're about to step out, before two, tall alpha men step in in front of them. She'd said 38th, they were only at the 29th. 

"Well, if you must know," James sighs, and whispers to her, "It was a long time ago—well in the past now."

"Well in the past," She huffs. The two alphas glance over their shoulders at her. Bucky smelled it too—Sharon had gotten very angry at him, very quickly. He was going to ask her what her problem was, but the doors opened on the 38th floor. 

"Look," He says, pulling her aside just outside of the elevator. "You can tell me what this is about later—but right now, I need you on my side, okay? I've got to bring my A-game in there, and I can't be busy wondering why you're mad at me." 

"Fine." She shrugs. Bucky squeezes her shoulders gently, a wordless 'please'. "Fine," she stresses, offering a little smile.

"Good. Fuck's sake, don't scare me like that." He grumbles, turning them back onto the path to the conference room, "This place already reeks of toxic male energy."

"It does, doesn't it?" A new voice offers. Well, not new, because Bucky would recognize his arch-rival's voice even if it were spoken down the hall, on a phone, behind a locked doorThat's how much he hated this guy's guts. 

Slowly, he turns to face Steve Rogers, and is faced with all six-and-a-half feet of him. His scent smacked Bucky over the head like a wall of wind: woodsmoke, cinnamon, and clean pine. It makes Bucky nauseous. He hated the winter-time, and Steve's alpha scent was the fucking embodiment of Christmas. 

"Good morning, James," Steve offers his hand and an arch of his eyebrow. "It's a shame Tony doesn't seem to hire anyone other than alphas, huh? Really stuffs up the air, all these people vying for power under the same roof. I guess that's just those old-school New Yorkers, for you."

Bucky grits his teeth. "Mornin', Rogers." He shakes his hand, a firm, solid shake that he was proud of. Today would be comprised of a million little victories like that, that would all amount to a giant middle finger in this perfect, cut-out cookie of a man's face. 

"Oh come on, James." He laughs a perfect, sociable laugh. "How many times do I gotta' tell you?  It's 'Steve', man." 

"Right. Steve." Bucky offers a little smile; one that he hopes conveys 'Fuck you', very clearly. Judging by the hand that Steven claps on his shoulder, it did exactly that. 

"So, since we're all being dragged here today, I'm guessin' someone didn't agree to the terms of Stark's asset re-allocation." Steve says in a deceptively cheery tone. 

Bucky grins, just the sort of sharp, cunning smile that had gotten him in mounds of trouble in his youth. "No, of course I don't agree, Steve. Anyone with eyes and an understanding of Stark Finance's clientele wouldn't; but a tele-conference would have been enough for me. Mr. Stark is behind this meeting."

Steve makes a short, amused sound, and allows Sharon and Bucky to enter the conference room first. The room is beautiful, just like the rest of the tower's interior. It's almost entirely glass, with a giant white pine table in the center, and dainty-looking metal chairs all around it. 

Steve's associate, Samuel, was already in the conference room, looking out the giant windows at the rest of Midtown. 

"Sam, Buddy," Steve smiles, "Barton & Barnes is here." 

"Oh," Sam turns around, with a bit more hostility than Bucky expected, but it fizzles out when he realizes it's the Barnes end of the company in attendance. That would normally upset him—but Bucky had something up his sleeve for Sam Wilson. 

"Mr. Wilson." Bucky strides right over to him, and offers his hand. Sam takes it, and offers a slightly-apologetic smile. Normally, an alpha with eyes like his and a smile like his would make Bucky's knees week—but he stays strong, clearing his throat and willing his face to remain light. "I had the pleasure of meeting your mate, recently. Hell of a guy, that Riley." 

Steve smiles gently, his bright blue eyes darting between the two of them. "Is that so? Where'd you manage to see Ry? With this promotion of his, he's either working or sleeping these days." 

Sam makes an irritated little sniffing noise, and nods. "Working." Steve's face falls—only momentarily—as he pieces things together for himself. Bucky wouldn't pass up an opportunity to explain it though—especially if it kept that dopey look on Steve's face even a second longer.

"Clint is very fond of hiring aspiring omegas. Giving us a place to start, y'know," Bucky says with a knowing smile. "Rileys just been made head of acquisitions at Barton & Barnes. Congratulations, by the way, Sam. He worked very hard. You must be very proud of him." 

"I am." Sam says, his pride betraying his hard expression. Both Steve and James could smell it in the air, and it put an unconscious grin on Bucky's face. One down, he thinks to himself smugly.

There's a soft ruffle of sound in the doorway, and then the boisterous voice of Mr. Anthony Stark, "Wonderful: all of my favorite assholes in one room—wait, where's Barton?"

Bucky pipes up, "He's tied up at the office. I hope you don't mind my sitting in for him." 

"Well, I wanted you both here." Tony huffs, taking Bucky by the shoulders into a hug he hadn't prepared for. 

Anthony Stark is a staple of eccentric professionalism wherever he goes. His hair coiffed and facial hair trimmed faultlessly, both peppered with gray; his suits always looking so well-tailored, it was as though he'd been sewn right into them fresh every morning. And frankly, with the kind of wealth the billionaire had accrued in his career, him having a live-in tailor probably wasn't all that far off from the truth.

That close, Bucky could smell Tony: the subtle scent of pen ink and crisp book pages, layered over a very masculine smell of something earthy but clean, sandalwood, Bucky thinks.

"Tony!" Steve croaks, and Tony engulfs him in one of those weird alpha half-hugs, where they clasp hands and pat each other's backs in weird, rhythmic slaps. 

Bucky glances over ar Sharon, and she offers a supportive smile. He fixes the hem of his jacket, and glances over as Sam received his greeting, as well. 

"Well—I bet you're all wondering what all the fuss is about." Tony says, settling into the chair at the head of the table. "This very well could have been handled without any of you having to leave your cushy corner offices, huh?" 

"It's always a pleasure to see you, Tony." Steve nods.

"It's okay, kiss-ass, you don't have to butter me up, yet." Tony waves a dismissive hand, and Bucky tries to stifle his laugh. "As you should know by now, I'm done with this old show. I'm tired of it, yeah? So, I'm going to split all this mess up, then I'm going to take my wife and my kids and we're going to fuck off to somewhere nice and warm and sandy for a couple months." 

"Sounds like heaven, Tony." Bucky nods at him, and he meant it—he can't even remember the last time he'd been on vacation. Probably right before law school.

"It will be." He sighs, "But first, I figure we do things the old-fashioned way, just one last time, for old times' sake. So, which account do you boys want to start with?"

"We're negotiating—for all of the clients? In person?" Sam furrows his eyebrows and sits back in his seat, unbelieving.

"Yeah?" Tony nods, as if Sam had asked if it were going to rain today.

Sharon had prepared for every possible outcome of this meeting, and had brought Bucky's notes along for him, just in case. She sets them down on the table and slides them in front of him. "Here you are, Mr. Barnes."

"T-thanks, Sharon." Bucky nods, thanking the high heavens for sending Sharon Carter into his life. 

"Look!" Tony grins, "Barnes had the right idea, didn't he? Or was that all Sharon?" 

The three of them share a laugh, before Bucky glances up and notices that Steve is staring right at him.

A hint of his scent hits Buck's nose again; but it's slightly different this time. The soft, easy-going, almost jolly scent Bucky had associated with Steve was there, but somehow, it was darker, a bit of char on the woodsmoke that was typically comforting, the fiery burn of cinnamon smelling a lot more like whiskey than candy, and the pine reminding Buck of a Christmas tree that had withered away to brown needles and dried bark. 

When he caught Bucky's eyes, he offers a slight tilt of his lips—Bucky couldn't tell if it were in anger or a challenge—and sucks in a deep breath, "Well, let's get started then," He hums, and the cheer in his voice returns immediately. 

Nature demanded that Bucky at least acknowledge the pang of arousal Steve suddenly stirred within him, so he took one more gratuitous look at his floppy blond hair and his bright blue eyes, and then shoved it down deep. 

It was going to be a long day of deliberation. 


 It had been about five hours, and the Hogan conference room was a completely different scene than it had been when the four men sat down to begin talks.

For starters, four phone lines were brought in after the first ten minutes or so. Then, upon having heated conversations with each other, and vicious bouts of lobbying into telephones, all four of them had lost their suit jackets, abandoning them on chair backs in favor of pacing around the conference table. Sam had even lost his tie. 

"Can we agree on the Romanovs, then? We keep control of the local day-to-day affairs, and you keep their international branches? " Bucky asks the air, waiting for either of the Rogers' representatives to answer. 

Instead of one, he gets both, offering a quick, joint, "No."

"This is pointless," Bucky glares, "You get Natasha on the phone, and I guarantee you she'll agree with me." 

"Then call her." Steve snaps back, "We got her thirty-five million last year with the Pierce-O'Neill deal." 

"Yes, but only because you had to make the Pierce-O'Neill deal in the first place." Bucky groans, "We haven't had to take anything to court in the entire time she's has us as her team. Everything settles long before that, if at all." 

Steve huffs out a sigh, and hands the telephone to Bucky, "Then. Make. The. Call." 

Bucky grits his teeth—an audible sound of frustrationbut Sharon, as always, is just in time. She slips the phone out of his palm, and slides his cell phone there instead. "Barton for you."

"Barton," Bucky says quickly, scrubbing his palm over his jaw. 

"I got you Banner & Odinson, and Maximoff & Associates. Tell me you got Romanov." Clint drawls out over the line, and Bucky hears the slip of papers, presumably in his hands. 

"No, not yet. I just finished up with Rhodes." 

Steve glances up at that, glaring icy blue daggers at Bucky.

"Holy shit, you bagged Rhodes? As in Tony's Rhodes? My God." It sounds like Clint drops something, "Shit, I know Steve's not happy about that."

He was still glaring, so Bucky snorts, "No, no he isn't."

"Good. Piss him off. Lock in Romanov, and I'll see what else I can do from here." 

"Sharon, get me Natasha, please?" He nods, but when she reaches for the landline, he tuts, "No, use this," and hands her his cell phone, he himself reaching for the landline, "I'll try Stephen again."

"Hey!" Sam barks, pressing his palm against the receiver of his own line, "I thought you conceded Strange?"

Bucky shrugs, a devilishly sly look in his eyes. "I did, didn't I? Hang up and call him. I'll race you." 

Sam grins, up for the challenge, but Steve rolls his eyes—and there it was again, the scent of something that shouldn't be in a hearth, smoldering away in it anyway. Leather? Rubber? Bucky couldn't tell what it was, but he was beginning to understand that it emerged whenever Steve got angry. 

That scent, whatever it was, distracted him, and Sam's line connected to Dr. Strange's before his. Sam's loud voice fills the space, "Stephen! Hey, Strange, how's Christine?"  

Bucky grunts, and sets the line down with a frown. Sharon, however, lights up his face when she says, "Got Ms. Romanov for you." 

"Great! Give it here." 

"No," Sharon nods, "I got Romanov for you. She's on board. Domestic and international affairs, all to Barton & Barnes."

"Fuckin' hell, I could kiss you, Sher." Bucky grins. "Who's left?"

"Nobody." Sam grunts, hanging up his phone. "Strange is staying with Barton." 

Bucky arches an eyebrow at the alpha, "S'that so, Wilson?"

"Yeah, yeah," Sam pops his collar up, and slides his tie where it belongs, "Wipe that grin off of your face, Barnes, or I'll—"

"I've been gone for ten minutes, and you've resorted to threats?" All four of them look up and see Tony returning from wherever it was he'd disappeared to.

Bucky sits back with a grin, "Ten minutes? You've been gone at least an hour."

"Oh." He pouts. "Anyway, tell me what you've done since I left. Where are you on the list?"

"We're done." Steve says curtly, shutting his leather-bound notepad. "Barton & Barnes just secured Strange. He was last on the list."

"Well that was quick. I thought you'd be here at least a few more hours. So, who got the Romanov account?" 

"Barnes." Sam quips.

"And what about Rhodes?" 

"Barnes." Steve grits out.

Tony folds his arms across his chest. "And Strange?"

"Yessir." Bucky says cheerfully.

"What about the Sokovia accounts? Who got Maximoff?"

"I did, sir." Bucky nods. "Well, Clint did."

"Well I'll be damned." Tony says, sitting back in one of the chairs at the table. "You went from a 35/65 split to what?"

"61-39." 

"Holy shit, kid." Tony grins at him. "Whatever it is that's bumping around in that big ole' brain of yours, I like it."

"Thank you, sir."

"Well, I won't keep you here any longer than I need to." Tony says with a roll of his wrists, flashing a rather expensive looking watch. "I'll have Peps draft up everything we need to make this official. Couriers should be coming to your offices by the end of the week, and I  will be half-way around the world by then." 

Tony stands, and the three men stand as well. "It's a pleasure doing business with you, Tony." Bucky nods, taking Tony's outstretched hand.

Bucky didn't bother saying farewell to the other men. He just watched Sharon offer hers, and took long, lean strides out of the conference room. 


 "You did good in there." Sharon grins at Bucky, tucking his ledger under her arm. "Didn't see you buckle, not even once."

"Yeah, by some fuckin' miracle." Bucky returns the smile, and nods at the reception desk, "Why don't you say goodbye to Dot for me? I've got to hit the john. I've been holding my pee for six fuckin' hours."

She laughs at his little jog to the restroom, but finds herself swishing her hips over to Dot's desk anyway. 

In the restroom, Bucky found his relief, in what he thinks may be the world-record for longest single urination, ever. But before he could finish, that scent assaults his nose again.

If he thought Steve smelled angry before, it was clear that he was fucking fuming now. That woodsmoke smelled as though someone had doused gasoline on the dying flame, causing it to roar to life with newfound hostility. All of his other scents, too, smelled consumed by that anger, the cinnamon whiskey probably a more likely igniter than gasoline, and the pine that once was a fresh, pleasant smell, chopped down into planks and tossed into that raging fire. 

Before he could even collect himself, the man rounded the corner into the men's room, and they locked eyes—Steve in the doorway, and Bucky still at the goddamned urinal.

Steve even looked angry, now. He must have been trying very hard to hide it in front of Tony, because now, it was unabashedly on display. The deep gash in between his eyebrows, his eyes having lost their pleasant blue glow, instead a shade of the darkest steel, a scowl evident on his face. His shoulders looked tense, muscles bunched up on each other as his anger seemed to rip through his entire body. It made his suit look tight and uncomfortable, and everything in Bucky's nature made him want to apologize for causing that strong of a reaction.

"Rogers," Bucky clears his throat and fixes his pants. 

"Barnes." 

"It was a good fight today, yeah?" 

"I suppose it was." 

Bucky waves his hand over the sink, and the tap comes on. In his peripheral, he can see Steve approaching. He glances up, an eyebrow raised. "Everything alright, Rogers?"

"Steve." He corrects. "Told you, it's Steve." 

"Okay. Is everything alright, Steve?

"What is it about you, huh?" Steve takes in a harsh breath, and leans against the wall. 

"Sorry?"

"What is it about you?" He shrugs, "That's so goddamned special it makes even my oldest clients flock to you without a second thought?"

Bucky can't help the grin that takes over his lips. "I don't know Steve. You're the one with the dashing good looks, so maybe it's my rap sheet. I don't seem to take losses." 

Steve's eyes dip from Bucky's eyes to his lips? The blond takes another sharp breath. "No. No, it doesn't seem like you do." 

"No hard feelings though, right?" Bucky offers a little smile, and a freshly-dried hand. "We work pretty close together on quite a few accounts. I'd hate for our business to suffer over a merger." 

"Is that what you want?" Steve's voice is low, and it makes Bucky feel like he needs to take a few steps back. "To keep working close together?"

"Yes. I think it is." 

"Good." Steve nods once, taking his hand. "I think I'd like that too." 

His scent seems to tone itself down a bit, and Bucky gets a whiff of that peppermint candy smell. He never thought he'd miss it, but once it comes back, he realizes he did.

Bucky leans back on his heels, taking a good look at Steve Rogers. "I think I'm startin' to see what Sharon does, Rogers." 

"S'that so?" 

"Yeah. You should call our office more often, by the way—Sharon gets all smiley when you do. Makes everyone's life a bit easier." He grins, then nods, "You've got a bit of bite behind those baby-blues, don't you? You aren't all sunshine and smiles."

He laughs—but it isn't the same, office-appropriate laugh Bucky's heard from him before. It's a raw, genuine laugh ripped from his throat with a bit of grit around the edges. "S'that what you think of me, James? 'Sunshine and smiles'?"

Bucky shrugs, balling his napkin up and tossing it in the trash. "Until today, yeah." 

"What's changed your mind?"

Bucky gives him a small laugh, and inhales deeply, getting lungfuls of that sickly sweet peppermint. "I don't know, Steve. Something in the air."

"That's funny," Steve tuts, "There was somethin' in the air for me, too." 

"Really?"

"Yeah. I thought it was Sharon, at first." He's all perfect white smiles and theres a little twinkle of something mischievous in his eyes. "But now I'm not so sure."

"What's that?" Bucky's breath hitches in his throat. The look on Steve's face made Bucky want to hide somewhere, before his body betrayed his brain, then he distractedly notices Steve is retreating to the exit.

"I dunno," Steve sighs, out of Bucky's line of sight, "You should probably tell Sharon she isn't my type. I prefer my mates dark-haired," He says, and just before he reaches the exit, "and male." 


 

Chapter Text


When Bucky got home that evening, he celebrated his win the only way he knew how: with loud music and expensive bottles of old wine. 

Just then, he was padding barefoot through his townhouse, flipping through Architect's Digest. On the centerfold, there's a portrait of Loki Odinson, and an accompanying article spread detailing the his commission to expand one of Stark's buildings overseas. He'd worked with the Odinsons before, and now his firm was responsible for their full-time legal consult. Bucky took a gratuitous gulp from his wineglass, and frowned at his picture. He looked taller on the page than he was in person. 

With a flip of an uninterested wrist, the magazine is abandoned on the countertop. In its stead, his phone lights up. Sometimes he wondered why he paid its bill—no one ever used it to contact him besides Clint and Sharon. Occasionally his mother.

See, Bucky didn't have many friends

How could he? His entire life was comprised of his work—work in a field dominated by people who were completely different than he was. He didn't have their inborn, alpha stamina, nor their social ease, which meant that he had to work twice as hard just to keep up with them. He didn't have time to go out and meet friends, so if he wanted them, he'd have to find them at work; and the circles that dominated New York's financial district weren't exactly his sort of people, anyway. He dealt with them for a maximum of eight hours a day, then, he needed to retreat to Brooklyn. 

Almost as if the universe were teasing him, Sharon's name flashes across the screen.

"Y'ello." He hiccups around the wineglass.

"Hey you," Sharon coos, "Just making sure you haven't drank yourself silly yet."

"Well on my way there," He didn't realize that the barstools at his kitchen island spun around. With a kick of a long, lean leg, he spins again. "Care to join me?"

"I assumed you'd be celebrating." She says, and Bucky can hear the frown in her voice.

"I am celebrating,"

"No," She hums, "I meant the sort of celebrating that requires being tangled up in sheets."

Bucky snorts, "Who on earth would I be fucking right now?"

"Well, half of your staff assumes it's me." 

"Well then half of my staff is inept." He swallows whats left in his glass, "Because even a blind man with no nose could see and smell that I'm a bottom."

Sharon's fluttery laugh fills the other line. "You did look quite bottom-y in navy today."

"It was the hair," He whines, "The hair and the suit just screams bottom."

"Yeah, It does, doesn't it?"

"Oh!" Bucky gasps. The bubbles in his wine felt like they were fogging up his brain. He suddenly remembered, "You should stop makin' eyes at Steve. He's not into it."

"Darn," She sighs, but doesn't sound all that disappointed. "I was hoping he'd fall at my feet, like all the others do. That would make things so much easier."

"He likes them dark-haired, he says." Bucky's fist wraps around the bottle of Prosecco. 

"Sounds as though you had a rather intimate conversation with Stark's golden boy." 

"It was. In the fuckin' restroom, too." The glass fills with bubbles before his eyes, and he remembers the last bit of his conversation with Steve, "Oh! And he's gay." Sharon's quiet for a second, so Bucky frowns, "Sher?"

"He told you that?" Sharon asks, her voice more bubbly now than it was a moment ago.

"Yeah, he did." Bucky narrows his eyes at the bottle, "With this stupid grin on his face, too."

"He told you that he liked brown-haired guys, to your face, in front of you?"

"Y-eah?" He hiccups.

"Oh, you're a bit dense, aren't you?" 

"Hey,"

"Well, either your drunk already, or you're denser than I thought." She laughs, "Bucky, honey, I think he's into you."

"What?" If he were drunk, which he didn't think he was, he was completely sober now. He laughs dryly, "Are you kidding me? That fucker hates my guts—and believe me, the feeling is mutual."

"Really?"

"Yes, really," He barks, "He was just being a dick. I probably caught him off-guard when I mentioned you, and so he said all that just to fuck with me."

"I don't think so—" The rest of Sharon's thought was interrupted by his cellphone buzzing against his ear. He yanks it away, noticing the banner notification. Brock Rumlow (Fury & Co): Surprise :) Want some company?

"Listen, I've got to go, okay?" He downs some more sparkly wine, before adding, "But you're wrong about Rogers. He's just an asshole, I promise."

"Whatever you say, boss." 

And with that, Bucky snatches his wineglass and heads to the front door. After a moment spent fiddling with the lock, it swings open. Brock Rumlow is stood on the other side. 

He hadn't heard the rain over his music—but it was rolling down the street—and in the light pouring through the open door, Bucky could see that Brock was glistening with it. 

"Hey, hotshot." Brock hums, his voice a deep rumble. 

Bucky grabs him by his jacket and pulls him inside. "It's fuckin' freezing out there, Brock, and you're just wearing a goddamned suit? Where's your coat?"

"Left it at the office," he says, gazing down at at Bucky hungrily. "All the top firms in the district got a memo today: Tony's retiring, Stark finance is dissolving, and there was a fifty-fifty split between your firm and Rogers'."

Bucky arches an eyebrow. "It was more like sixty-forty." 

A growl of a chuckle escapes Brock's lips, and Bucky grins as the other man took tiny steps closer, "Congratulations, handsome."

Bucky could smell it on him—attraction, loud and clear over his other scents. He smelled like the city: asphalt and recycled air, bad attitudes and cigarette smoke.

Brock was the only sort of alpha Bucky didn't find himself intimidated by. In archaic, biological terms, he was a bit of a runt, to be honest. He was shorter than most alphas, and he didn't have any of the traits Bucky sought after in a mate, either—he lacked patience, cleverness, decisiveness. But, he was handsome. He had short, well-kept hair to grab, and a lean, broad back to cling to.

Brock was a placeholder kind of person—enough for right now, but never enough for forever. 

"Thank you."  

"I figured, uh," Brock breathes, "You might want some company tonight. Am I right?"

"You're right." Bucky nods, snaking his fingers in the hair at the nape of Brock's neck.

Brock doesn't waste any time. He dips his face forward and takes Bucky's lips in a hot, wet kiss. Bucky's hands slip under the damp, clingy material of his blazer, and slides it down his broad shoulders. In an instant, Brock was half-naked in Bucky's foyer. 

"C'mon." Bucky breathes, pulling them apart just long enough to set his wine glass down on the sideboard. "Bed. Now." 

"Yes, sir." Brock snatches the glass and downs its contents, before allowing Bucky to lead him up the stairs. 


The following morning held none of the bliss that the night before had carried.

Bucky was ripped from the gentle embrace of sleep by Brock's heavy hand on his face, and his croaky voice going, "Your phooooone."

Then, he heard it: the incessant beeping that was the ringtone for whenever Sharon called from her desk phone. James groped blindly around the nightstand, finally palming the glass rectangle. "What?", he pressed it to his ear and growled.

"Its 10am." Sharon says simply.

Bucky could hear the thunder outside. "It's raining cats and dogs. There's probably a flood warning in effect."

"Doesn't matter. You're going to miss your ten o'clock appointment with Quill." 

"Fuck Quill." He rolls over. Brock is still there, elbow thrown over his eyes to block out what little sun was coming through the windows. "He's only there to scalp us for more money, anyway."

Her voice dips down low.  "He asked me not to warn you, but, James? Steve's here." 

That made him bolt straight up, yanking the sheets off of Brock in the process. "What?"

"I think he wanted to catch you off-guard. Says he's here to talk about the Danvers account."

"Fuckin'—Look, I'll be there in a half-hour." 

"Make it twenty minutes." She adds, "I told him about ten minutes ago that the weather was keeping you back, and you'd be here in a half-hour." 

That sends him off into full-work mode. Gone was the sleepy-eyed look of lust he had for Brock—abandoned in between the sheets he left the other man snoozing in. It was replaced by a fervent speed he reserved for moments just like these. He was in and out of a hot shower in less than five minutes, dressed in the gray suit he'd wanted to wear yesterday, his hair still kind-of sex-tousled. With one final glance in the mirror, he was in that weird headspace where at one angle, he thought he looked fine, but with the tiniest shift, he thought he needed to change. 

But he didn't have time to change, he reminds himself. So, he slaps on a pair of Raybans—which did fuck-all to hide the bags under his eyes he had from consuming and entire bottle of Prosecco himself—and grabbed his things. 

He didn't bother waking Brock. They were both accustomed to this sort of morning, where instead of lingering around in each other's presence, one of them would have to shoot up and be at their respective offices at a moment's notice. So, without another word to the sleeping man, Bucky was out the door and heading to Midtown. 

When he got to Barton & Barnes, he'd already pulled up the Danver's file on his iPad. He spent the entire elevator ride up to his floor perusing it. The account was settled—no open cases, no pending charges, nothing that needed either his or Rogers' immediate attention. He frowned down at it. 

The elevator doors opened, and he barely had the half of a second necessary to process the sight in front of him: the entire floor was filled with his staff, and Sharon, Steve, and Clint were at the front. Everyone screamed at once: "Congratulations!"

Bucky blinked out at them, and slowly shut his iPad cover. "What's this?"

Clint stepped forward, and clapped a heavy hand on his shoulder. "You did good yesterday. I'm proud of you, kid." 

A long-stemmed glass of fizzy orange liquid was shoved into his free hand. "Jesus, it's eleven in the morning, you're drinking already?" 

"We're celebrating." Sharon grins at him. 

"Stark called, singing your praises." Clint continues, leading him around the room, towards the windows. "You've impressed him. D'ya know just how fuckin' hard that is to do?" 

"I just did my best, Clint." Bucky says, putting his shades into his jacket pocket. 

"C'mon," the other man nods, shaking his shoulders a bit, "Y'did good, Buck. Give yourself some credit. Enjoy a mimosa." 

Bucky could feel the eyes on his back, burning a hole in the back of his head. Sure enough, when he turned to steal a peek in that direction, Steve Rogers was clear across the room and still glaring daggers at him.

"I'd much rather be in bed, but I guess mimosas aren't a bad trade-off." Bucky offers Clint a little smile. 

"Atta boy." Clint laughs, smacking his shoulder and heading off towards a server carrying a tray of fresh drinks.

Two days ago, Bucky would have told you that he hated the smell of Christmastime—and he would have meant it, too—but when the smell of peppermint candy hits his nose, he has to lock his knees to keep himself from falling over.

"Hey there, boy-wonder." That velvety voice comes from behind him. "Nice of you to join us."

Bucky turns around, and offers the most genuine smile he could muster. "If it were up to me, I'd still be bundled up in bed." 

"Well, it's the perfect weather to be bundled up in, huh? A little coffee, maybe a movie." Steve says, then over the brim of his glass, "Maybe a friend?"

He snickers in return, "Mind yours, Rogers."

He takes a step closer, and Bucky felt his heart leap into his throat. Steve takes a moment to let his eyes flit over Bucky's face, before he whispers. "I can't help but feel like Sharon's call ripped you away from someone."

James can only swallow. 

"So it did," Steve's eyebrows go up, and he grins, "Funny, I swore I heard her mention my name, too. Did little old me manage to pull you away from someone special this morning?"

"No, not at all." Bucky shrugs; and that wasn't technically a lie, either. 

Steve purses his lips. "You smell like him. Cigarettes." Then a frown, "I prefer your scent."

Bucky tries to keep his voice even, "Is that so?"

"Yeah." Steve nods, "You smell like a coffeehouse. Coffee beans and books."

"That's a first. I normally hear that I give off coffee, but never books."

"No, the books seem to come out when you're threatened." 

"You think I'm feeling threatened, Steve?" 

He shrugs, "You hide it well, but it's in my nature, James. I can just sense your distress."

Bucky felt a certain urge to roll his eyes, one he couldn't curb. Alphas, pretentious little pricks, all of you, he thinks to himself. He grits his teeth. "Good thing it isn't your place to worry about me or my distress, then."

"I was just noticing it, that's all." Steve whispers, innocently.

"Just noticing." Bucky repeats, "So, is this a business appearance, or were you just here for the cake-pops and mimosas?"

"It was a business trip," He looks around, "But who am I to say no when Clint Barton hands me a mimosa and says to stick around?"

"So, the Danver's account? That was for real then?" 

"Yes." He nods. "It can wait, if you want to enjoy your party."

"No," Bucky huffs, setting his glass down on a passing server's tray. "I'd actually like to get back to the cigarettes still waiting in my bed. Let's talk in my office."

Steve makes a little sound, Bucky can't quite tell if it's a laugh or not, he just sticks his hands in his pockets and leads the way to his office. 


The two of them sat in silence for a long moment. Bucky was so flabbergasted that he just sat back in his seat and stared at the blond.

He'd misunderstood him, clearly.

He searches those giant blue eyes of his, and he can tell that Steve expected his disbelief, too. It was a ridiculous choice to make, they both understood that, but Bucky still wasn't sure. He knows that Steve is a smart man—an annoying one, but smart nonetheless—and if he wanted to get rid of the Danvers account, there was a probably a very good reason for it. 

"Alright." Bucky drops his hands onto the table, "What am I missing here?" 

"Missing?"

"Yeah, what am I missing?" Bucky repeats, clasping his fingers together. "Carol Danvers is worth two and a half million dollars, Steve, and I know you. You aren't saying something."

Steve makes a face, "I'm saying everything."

"Alright," Bucky pushes away from his desk. They'd been doing this for almost fifteen minutes now. Bucky was all for bartering—but it was no fun when the other person didn't play. "If you aren't going to explain, I'm not going to bite. We're done here."

"James," Steve says, his voice sharper than before. 

Suddenly, Bucky could smell that same scent as the day before, woodsmoke, suddenly ignited. It pushed him back into his seat. 

"My board is lessening my workload." Steve says quickly. "I'm delegating the accounts they don't think I can handle."

"Why?" Bucky asks, just as sharply. He wouldn't shrink down on himself—not in his own office.

"Because they think I lost Stark Finance." He bites. "To you."

Bucky narrows his eyes at the blond. "Your board knows you lost Stark's shares to me, and so you want to just give me your biggest account? Yeah, that makes a lot of sense, Steve."

"It needs to go to someone capable of handling it well." Steve's eyebrows go up. "You're the only person I could think of that would pay enough attention to it."

"You'd give me the Danvers firm, over anyone else on your own team?" 

"I need a favor, James. You've said it yourself," Steve sits back in the chair, and adjusts his jacket's hem. "Alphas are all so self-righteous, our pride will be the death of us."

Bucky didn't remember just when he'd said that, at least not in Steve's presence, but it did sound like something he'd say. So, he sighs.

On one hand, he gets it. When you've re-built a company yourself, so well that they stick your name on the front of the building, you'd think they'd cut you some slack every now and again. But they don't—the moment you fuck up, you're just another person presenting them with disappointing news. Thats just the way that the NYFD worked, one day you were in, the next you were out of a job. Bucky thanks his lucky stars that Clint wasn't that sort of CFO; he wasn't exactly packing in the patience department, but he didn't go throwing his staff away after every mistake.

But on the other hand, Bucky was still at a bit of a loss. Two and a half million dollars was a hell of a loss to take, just to stick it to his review board.

"Has she needed representation in the time you've had the account?" Bucky asks quietly.

"Once. Class-action suit. Settled early on." He says, producing the files from his notepad. 

"How much did she lose?"

"Thirty grand."

"Not bad." Bucky arches an eyebrow. Thirty grand in this line of work was like a dirty, ripped dollar. He flips the page over and nods. "Fine. I'll take it."

Steve sighs, "Great—"

"But you're taking it back once you've settled things with your review board."

Steve's face falls, "What?" He furrows his eyebrows and blinks, and Bucky thinks for a moment that it's the most endearing look he's ever seen on Steve Roger's face. "Why?"

"Because, when I do take Danvers from you, I'll win her fair and square." Bucky shrugs, "You did all of the legwork, I'm not just going to take advantage of you when your board puts you in a bad spot. I'll handle her consultations until you get out of whatever this is, but then she's yours again."

Steve looks up at him with the strangest look in his eye. Slowly, the peppermint scent floats up to Bucky's nose again. He smiles at it. Steve grins, "Thank you." 

"Great." Bucky taps his desk, and grins at him too, "Now get out. Go enjoy some more office-funded alcohol. I'm going home."

Suddenly, Steve is at his feet. "What are you doing on Friday night?"

Bucky doesn't even have to think about it, "Working." 

"Good. I'll have Sharon put me on your schedule." He says, opening the glass door to the hall, and holding it for Bucky.

"What for?"

"A thank-you dinner." Steve says, and there's a flame of that scent again when Bucky brushes past him, through the doorway. 

"That's hardly necessary." Bucky feels his face flushing.

"Or a date, if you're making me beg." Steve arches an eyebrow at him. "You gonna make me beg, Barnes?"

Bucky's knees suddenly felt like jello. "Should I?"

Steve's voice get deep—deeper than Bucky thinks he's ever heard it—and he whispers real low, just for Bucky to hear, "I would, if you wanted me to."

Bucky couldn't help the chills that make him shiver. Here he was, getting ready to go home to a bed  where another man was probably still sleeping, and he had Steve fuckin' Rogers offering to beg him for a date. The day could not get any stranger.

The brunet makes a little gesture with his thumb and whispers, "You—you remember where I said I was headed, right?"

"Home, right?" Steve inhales, "Back to Mr. Cigarettes?"

That makes Bucky laugh. 

"I don't see any rings on those fingers of yours." Steve furrows his eyebrows, "So, I figure, what Mr. Cigarettes doesn't know won't hurt him."

"Alright, Rogers." Bucky smiles, "Friday night, then."

Bucky had to lean against the wall of the elevator on the ride down to the lobby, just to catch his breath. He couldn't get the image of Steve's face out of his head— it was if it were stapled onto his eyelids. Bright eyes and smile, a hint of deviousness just engrained in his features. Boyish. Affable. But, somehow, still drawing from his nature, making him commanding and dominant with even the fewest of words.

The light rain that greeted him at the valet made his hair damp and his suit feel heavy—but it didn't matter, Steve Rogers had lit the strangest of fires in his gut, and it made him feel hot allover. No amount of rain could take that feeling away from him.


 

Chapter Text


 

The week couldn't have gone by any slower. Bucky use to be one of those people that complained about days not having enough hours to get through all their work—and they still didn't, he was still drowning in work—but now, the hours seemed to take twice as long to tick by. By Wednesday, he found himself glancing at the clock three times within the same minute. 

Things only got worse in the Not-Having-Time department, because Bucky had almost forgotten that when a merger settles, well, you had to deal with the merged assets. That meant a whole lot of work he couldn't assign to Sharon or any of the associates. He had to be the one making calls and taking trips to all of Stark's long-time clients, introducing himself and his plans for their working relationships.

That exhausted his entire reserve of extrovert energy. It got to the point that when Sharon came into his office on Friday afternoon, to remind him that Steve was on his schedule at eight, he wondered how the hell he was going to keep up with him over dinner. 

"You have to call to reschedule," He says, his head laid gently on the desk top. "I can't go."

"You have to!" Sharon whines, leaning in his doorway. "You can't cancel on the same day."

"Why the hell not?" 

"Because it's rude!"

"He already knows that I'm rude." He says, raking his hands against his scalp, "Call to cancel."

"Barnes, you're going on this goddamned date, if I have to prop your eyelids up with fuckin' matchsticks!"

He sits up at the sudden threat. "What's it to you if I don't go?"

She folds her arms. "I care about you, and you need to get laid."

Bucky snickers, and returns his cheek to the cool glass desk. "I have Brock for that."

"I have a date, Buck." She whines. "If you don't go on your date, you'll want to stay here and work, then I have to stay here and work, too."

"Go on your date," He hums, "I'm going home to sleep. I haven't slept all week."

"You can sleep this weekend!" 

He murmurs something that wasn't exactly words, more just a general sound of disagreement. 

"You mean to tell me you don't want to see Steve?" She asks, folding her arms across her chest.

"I didn't say that, I said I was tired." He huffs, "Sher, I even look tired. I'm not going anywhere with that walking Ken doll, while I look like I've been hit by a bus." 

"You just need a little under-eye concealer." 

"I'm already wearing concealer."

"Oh."

"Not going!" He groans, putting his head down again. "Call Rogers, let him know." 

"Fine." She humphs, and goes through the doors again.


Sharon was right about Bucky more times than he cared to admit. 

He did, indeed, stay in the office well after everyone had left. At around eight thirty, he considered asking Sharon to leave her date and bring him a few energy drinks, just to spite her for knowing him so well. 

Sharon didn't mention what Steve had said upon his cancelling so short-notice. She'd just buzzed over his telephone's intercom and said, "Your eight o'clock is cancelled."

That didn't alarm him—Sharon was curt and quick with him whenever he pissed her off. At least you got to go on your date, Bucky thinks to himself. He could picture her, sat across from some wealthy blond alpha, tossing her hair over her shoulder, running circles around his little game. Sharon was good at playing men. She did it for him from time to time when he'd first started out, batting her eyelashes at the right men to get him into the right places at the right times, but it had become a sport for her now. 

He tries to imagine himself in her shoes—sat across from his own wealthy blond alpha—making eyes at him. He predicts that he'd be a bit less graceful at it, but wonders where it would have lead him with Steve.

"Hey, Boss man," A voice brings him to the present. 

Bucky looks up, and feels a twinge of guilt in his gut. Stan was in the doorway, clad in his black driving suit, with his arms crossed in front of him. "Shit, I'm sorry, Stan." Bucky apologizes, "You can head on home. I'll just take a cab tonight."

"You expectin' anybody tonight?" He asks, his accent not pulling any punches.

Bucky blinks up at him."No, I don't think I am."

"That's what I thought." He huffs, "Don't worry about me. The traffic is bad, anyhow. I'll take you home when you're done here."

"Wait—What? Was there someone sayin' they were here for me?"

"S'just some goofball with a pizza box." Stan shrugs.

"Some—" Bucky follows him to the security booth down the hall. There, he could see all of the cameras in the building. 

Sure enough, Steve Rogers was standing in the lobby, holding a box of pizza and a bottle of wine. 

Bucky grins ear to ear. "Send him up, Stan." 

He doesn't know why he expected Steve Rogers to take his cancellation as anything other than a challenge, but despite the snow coming down outside, the idea of his face brought the tickle of woodsmoke and peppermint to his nose; which managed to warm him up, right down to his toes. Within a few moments, Bucky heard the elevator ding. 

"You and I had a dinner date, Mr. Barnes." Steve huffs, bringing the scents of a fresh pizza—rich tomato, basil, and warm cheese—into the office.

"Hi." Bucky greets him, then points at his desk, which was littered with legal documents. "I got a little caught up here." 

"So Sharon told me." He smiles one of his killer, lopsided smiles. "So, I brought dinner to you."

"You didn't have to do that, Steve." Bucky nods, pointing him towards the soft chairs set up off to the side of his desk. Steve settles in one and sets the bottle down on the coffee table. 

"You do a lot of telling me 'what I don't need to do' for you, you know that?" Steve says—again, with that lopsided grin of his. "Ever cross your mind that people might want to be nice to you?"

"No, never." Bucky rolls his eyes playfully. 

"Hm," Steve hums, as though he was picking his next words carefully. "I'd like to, though."

"You'd like to what?" Bucky asks, rummaging through his cabinets for plates. He finds two paper ones from Sharon's surprise party—they say Surprise! in rainbow font.

"I'd like to be nice to you." 

Bucky turns around and hands him a plate. It sounded innocent enough, but Bucky wasn't certain. Steve had this weird, mischievous tilt to his words sometimes; it made it hard to figure out if he was being honest, or if he was being a little shit

"Well, you got lucky with the pizza this time," Bucky settles in the seat across from him, "I'm starving."

Steve opens up the the box and slides a slice onto Bucky's plate. "Hm, good. This is the best pizza in the New York."

"Really?" Bucky tilts an eyebrow. "I know a couple of guys in Brooklyn that would disagree."

"Oh, Brooklyn doesn't count." Steve says with a laugh, "Brooklyn has got like its own tier of good foods." Then as if he hadn't realized it until just then, "Are—are you from Brooklyn, James?"

His mouth full of delicious cheese, Bucky can only nod.

"No, shit?" His eyebrows go up in surprise. "Me too."

"No." Bucky furrows his eyebrows. "Don't lie to me, Steve. You're from Westchester, or Bridgeport, or Hartford. Some cushy place upstate."

"Bridgeport?" He says it as if it's a curse. "No, no!" Steve grins, "Brooklyn. Crown Heights. Three streets west of Prospect Park."

"Wow." Bucky says, leaning back in his seat. "I grew up in south Bushwick. Eight streets west of Prospect Park."

Steve gives him another one of those lopsided smiles of his, and Bucky begins to wonder what it tasted like. Cheese, he kicks himself. He was eating pizza; his lips would taste like cheese, not peppermint or pine or whatever his stupid submissive brain thought it tasted like.  

"No wonder you're such a hard-ass." Steve grins. "Brooklyn boys are just built tough."

"I'm not a hard-ass. You're the hard-ass." Bucky almost snorts. "You're always giving me shit."

"I give you shit because you give me a hard time to begin with." Steve laughs over at him, and rests his cheek against his hand. "Why do you give me such a hard time, James?"

Bucky shrugs. "You look like you can take it."

"I can." Steve smiles, "Don't get me wrong—going back and forth with you is very fun, but you don't give Sam half of the shit you give me." 

Bucky felt a blush rising in his cheeks. Was that true? He'd like to think he gives both Rogers' representatives the same amount of resistance—but perhaps the blond got more, didn't he?

The truth was that Steve's charisma intimidated him. He could admit that to himself. As someone who'd had to toil endlessly to get where he was in life, Steve's happy-go-lucky attitude and uncanny ability to only ever fall up in life, infuriated Bucky. It made him be snarky and short with Steve, even though, clearly, Steve hadn't deserved that treatment. Steve was the sort of person who brought pizza and wine to his dates when they couldn't make dinner reservations; not someone spiteful. 

"C'mon, Barnes, spill." Steve kicks at his shoe. "I can hear you thinkin' all the way over here." 

"I don't know," Bucky blushes, taking a gratuitous sip of his wine. "I guess, when I first met you, you—I don't know—were kind of intimidatingI don't do well with intimidating."

Steve sits back in his seat, as though he were pondering Bucky's admission. Then, with another lopsided grin, "Bullshit." 

"Bullshit?"

"Yeah, bullshit." Steve says, slower this time, "I don't think that's true."

Bucky rolls his eyes, "Alright, all-knowing Steven, what's your hypothesis?" 

"I think," He points a playful finger, "That you're attracted to me."

Not expecting that response, Bucky snorts. His first instinct is to be defensive—but he couldn't be, now that he'd admitted what he did. So, he's quiet, he lets Steve continue.

"Because I was attracted to you, too." Steve says, leaning forward. "Still am, too."

Bucky's eyebrows inadvertently go up at the plainness of his statement. He'd said it as if he were commenting on the weather, like 'Did you notice it's snowing out?'

"That's why I went along with it, at first." Steve grins, "I thought it was your way of flirting."

Bucky scoffs, then laughs, "Who flirts like that?"

"I think you do, James." 

That makes him look up. Bucky's eyes meet Steve's, and there's something serious there—in his eyes—although a small smile still played at his lips. 

"Now, listen." Bucky smiles, and quickly averts his eyes "You're very attractive. Anyone with eyes could see that. Of course I found you attractive." 

Bucky pauses, but Steve reserves to hear him out. "No, go on." He grins, "About you finding me attractive." 

Bucky throws a pillow at him, and Steve only narrowly misses spilling dark red wine allover Bucky's white couch. "I think you're having too much fun with me, right now."

"Dream bigger, Barnes." Steve frowns. "There's always more fun to be had."

Steve darts to his feet, gliding over to the windows that looked out over the rest of midtown. Bucky sighs, grateful for a moment away from that conversation. Steve's words still ring in his ears. He's normally so sure of himself, but he caught himself wondering, had he been flirting? Maybe it was his pisces energy mixing with his omega energy, making him a needy, flirty mess, even unconsciously. 

"Come look at this." Steve nods, and Bucky slowly makes his way over there. He could smell him, the scent of woodsmoke stronger than all of his other scents, coming across as desire, loud and clear to Bucky's nose. He went anyway, toting his glass of wine over to Steve, and settles beside him. "Isn't it beautiful?"

It was. The snow was coming down in sheets, looking like someone had opened jars of of the fluffy white stuff and let it rain down over the city. The cars below were completely gridlocked, their headlights and taillights making a row of white lights and a row of red ones, all the way across the Brooklyn Bridge. 

"Don't you just love the winter-time in the city?" Steve hums.

Bucky glances up at him. His features seemed much softer in the moonlight coming through the glass—the curve of his jaw less sharp and threatening, and more boyish and handsome; the flutter of his eyelashes over impossibly blue eyes seeming less pretentious and more sweet; and the sharpness of his nose looking less perfect, and more like he'd broken it once or twice in a squabble or two.

As if he felt Bucky staring, Steve glances down. First he looks at Bucky's eyes, narrowing his own as if he didn't understand what he saw there, then he looks down at Bucky's lips, and his eyes relax, as if everything suddenly made sense. 

He whispers, in a quiet breath, "Can I kiss you?" 

"I—" Bucky's voice trails off at the sudden spike of peppermint that hit his nose—it was less of that sickly-sweet candy smell, and more like the raw, strong scent of the oil itself—wrapping him up in a blanket of it.

"Please?" Steve's free hand snakes around Bucky's waist, pulling their fronts together. 

Bucky doesn't think he could speak even if he knew what to say. He just nods, and Steve brings their lips together in a soft kiss. 

For a moment—just a moment—Bucky is lost against his lips. Steve feels better than anyone's he's ever held like this, and Bucky can't help but let out a little moan against his lips. But Steve pulls away, and Bucky is met with the clear scent of smoke, smoldering smoke, like someone was trying (and failing) to put out a fire.

"Hey," Bucky whispers, but Steve's eyes don't meet Bucky's. Instead, he's looking through the windows, his jaw locked tight. 

Bucky felt something inside of him fall. He knew better than to let his guard down around people, especially not people like Steve. He'd probably gotten this far, and realized that Bucky was a mistake, hadn't he? He was just searching for a way out. Bucky slowly pulled Steve's hand from around his waist, and cleared his throat to give him one. 

"No." Steve says sharply, tightening his grip there. He extends his arm and sets both of their wine glasses on the sideboard, and gazes down at the shorter man. "I just. I need a minute."

"You can go, if you need to." Bucky whispers. 

"No." Steve says, but it's more of a growl, really. He takes a deep breath, and pulls Bucky closer. "I'm sorry, I just need to—"

His voice trails off, but Bucky isn't focused on that. No, not at all. Being closer to Steve now, Bucky could feel something between them, where their hips touched. What's more, he could feel his own something between them, as well. He didn't know when his erection began sprouting, but both of them were well aware of the other's sudden arousal. Bucky's eyebrows furrowed. Then, he understood.

Most men in the NYFD didn't have mates. They didn't have time for them; or if they did, they set them up somewhere nice in Westchester or Connecticut, and made the trip there on the weekends. The ones who flew solo, though, tended to keep themselves in check with suppressants, which kept them focused and prevented some of the biological urges their alpha designation imposed on them. Betas and omegas used blockers too, typically the ones in the military, or in medical professions—but Bucky wasn't on them, and based by Steve's reaction to him, neither was he. Which meant that whatever omega-y scents Bucky was giving off, they were doing something serious to Steve's alpha brain. 

"I'm sorry," Bucky babbles, putting his hands on Steve's arms, to put a little distance between them. "I—I wasn't paying attention, are—are you not on suppressants?"

"No, don't be sorry," Steve gives him a little smile, a bit of his charm and grace coming back to him now, "No, I'm not." 

"Sorry," Bucky can't help but whine out.

"Don't be sorry." Steve growls out again, and pulls him a bit closer. He dips his head down, near Bucky's ear, and whispers, "I just—you smell so fucking good." 

That sends a wave of something fluttery through Bucky's gut. "I do?"

"You do." Steve growls against his skin, sliding his lips over the base of his neck, which made Bucky gasp. "Like fresh fuckin' sheets and coffee." 

"I—I didn't know." Bucky gives him an awkward laugh. "Mr. Cigarettes never told me."

Steve grunts and nips at his neck, clearly disapproving his mention of Brock. He sighs against his skin, "Y'perfect, James. So fuckin' perfect, and you don't even see it." 

Bucky felt beet red, now. He could still feel Steve against his hips. How did he end up here?, he wonders to himself, with Steve Roger's cock pressed up against his belly, and his voice in his ear calling him perfect? He tries to gain control of the situation, tries to find his sense in the fog that was his brain, high on Steve's scents. Slowly—so slowly, because he really didn't want to leave Steve's arms—he pulls them apart. 

"It's getting late," Bucky whispers. "I've got one of Clint's drivers waiting to take me home."

Steve clears his throat and nods. His voice is hoarse when he speaks, "Yeah, no, of course." 

"But thank you—for the pizza. And the wine. Mostly the wine." Bucky murmurs, offering an awkward smile. Steve looks at him with a strange amount of reverence, as though he were the sun peaking through the clouds on an overcast day. "And your company." 

"It was my pleasure, James." Steve says, his voice still hoarse. It takes all of Bucky's strength not to press himself against him again.

Suddenly, a loud, female voice interrupts their awkward farewell, "Bucky Goddamned Barnes, if you are still in this building, I swear to God!

"Fuck," He curses to himself, and watches Steve's smile return. 

Sharon Carter rounds the corner, and pauses dead in her track, another threat ready to tumble through her lips, but gasps when she notices the tall, disheveled blond standing behind Bucky. "Oh. Oh."

"Hey, Sharon." Steve's smooth, suave voice returns. 

"Oh." She repeats, like a broken record. "Mr—Mr. Barnes, I'm sorry I didn't know you had...company." She sings the last part, unable to hide her glee. 

"Well, Mr. Rogers was on his way out. Right, Steve?" Bucky says, his voice almost breaking off—curse Steve and all the hormones he awakened this evening.

"Yeah, yeah I was." Steve grins, taking the empty pizza box on his way out. "So, 'Bucky', huh?" 

"Mhm, Bucky." James whispers, "S'just a nickname. Go on."

"I'm goin'." He hums with a little smile. "Sharon?"

"Yes?"

"Would you put me on his schedule again? Same time next week?"

"It'd be my pleasure." She coos, giving him a little wave. He disappears down the hall with a little laugh. She immediately whips her head to Bucky, "Oh my God!"

Bucky bites his lip to keep himself from smiling, "No, Sher."

"Oh my God!" She squeals. "Did you—what, did you have pizza?" She sees the opened bottle of wine, "And wine? Oh my God, he knew you'd like wine, Oh my God.

"Sharon," Bucky laughs.

"You had pizza and wine with Steve Rogers," She points an accusing finger, "Did you kiss? Oh my God, did you bang?

"We just had pizza!" He lies, which he shouldn't have, because Sharon sees right through it. So, he admits. "There was a kiss."

Sharon lets out the most ungodly squeal. "Holy fuck, Bucky, d'you know what this means?"

"No." He replies honestly. He didn't know what this meant, for him, for Steve, for their firms' joint accounts. He hadn't thought about any of that—and he was finding it difficult to do so now, what with the thought of Steve's lips and junk up against his own, still making him a bit woozy. 

She gasps through her giggles. "What if you're soulmates? Oh! What if you're bonded? Maybe that's why you're always so mean to each other!"

Bucky glares at her, not at all seeing how she'd gotten to any of those conclusions. 

"Y'know, like, you both wanted each other but never acted on it, so you subconsciously were mean to each other because some interaction is better than none." 

Bucky's glare lessened. It kinda made sense, but Sharon was full of all sorts of nonsensical reasonings that kinda made sense. If it weren't the concept of soulmates and bondmates it was astrological talk of moon signs and planets being in retrograde that Bucky didn't understand. 

 "Maybe." Bucky murmurs, sitting back against the couch, thoroughly enveloped in Steve's scent now. He gazed out at the sheet of white blanketing the city, and found himself thinking that the wintertime wasn't all that bad.  


 

Chapter Text


The next week went by just as slowly as the one before. Bucky felt like he was a hamster stuck on its wheel, running in place, but not advancing in any direction. 

He still had a list of firms to meet with, none of which would be easy meetings. He was mostly dreading his meeting with James Rhodes, because meeting him meant quite a few things. For starters, it meant flying to and from DC in one afternoon; and Bucky hated flying. Then, it meant meeting Tony Stark's oldest friend, and convincing him that Tony hadn't entrusted his legal counsel to some bright-eyed kid. Another name on the list of You-Absolutely-Cannot-Fuck-This-One-Up clients, was Natasha Romanov; and her? Well, Bucky couldn't even think of her name without almost having a panic attack.

Even though he was busy, his brain still made time (in-between panicking and almost-crying) to drift off into thoughts of Steve. He was thinking about Steve more than he cared to admit, honestly. 

Bucky felt like a naive little kid experiencing a crush for the very first time; only this time around his crush wanted him, too. It put butterflies in his stomach and goosebumps down his arms, remembering Steve's voice in his ear, "You're perfect,". 

He didn't believe him, in perfection—not in the slightest—but that doesn't mean he can't drool over the sentiment. 

But just then, he was back to panicking. He had done something stupid—something Sharon had told him not to—and scheduled three different people for the same time. He had one meeting waiting in the hall, another in the conference room, and one on its way up from the lobby. And to top it off, Sharon was already pissed at him for forgetting about their Christmas party. He'd remembered it—or so he told Sharon—but in his head, it was some date far in the future that he didn't need to care about right then. All of a sudden, it was midday, Wednesday, and the party was set for Friday evening and he hadn't gotten his suit tailored yet.

He also had the strangest feeling of unease in his gut, as if something were looming just in the distance, something bad that he wasn't prepared for. Perhaps it was just exhaustion—he was running on less than an hour's sleep, and had also skipped breakfast, save a very mediocre cup of newspaper stand coffee. Whatever illness it was, it needed to fuck off, just until the holiday season. He could be sick on his vacation, when no one needed meetings or phone calls and he had his sisters to take care of him.

Still, his eyelids felt like they had sandbags weighing them down. It made his face feel hot and the air taste stuffy, but he powered through the day nonetheless. 

Sharon appeared in his doorway, but to his dismay, she didn't have his next client with her. Instead, she was frowning; and not the I'm-still-mad-at-you frown, but the You-fucked-up-again frown. 

"No," Bucky warns, gesturing to her, "Sharon, please don't come in here with any more bad news."

She crosses her arms. "I told you to get yourself a date to Rhodey's Christmas party. You need to confirm your attendance by two. "

"I told you that I wasn't going." Why wasn't he going? He had a reason, but for the life of him, he couldn't seem to remember it. The flashing lights on his landline, with one, two, three different people still on hold meant that he didn't have time to remember it, either. He sighs and looks up at her,  "Just get me out of it; tell them I'm sick, or something." 

She locks her jaw and glares at him. "Well, since you waited so long, they assumed you were coming—Rhodey wants you there to have your meeting afterwards, instead of next week. He'll be out of the country after tonight."

Bucky furrows his eyebrows at her. "Why can't you go with me?"

"I told you, today's my mother's birthday. I'm going home to Yonkers tonight." 

"Shit." He blinks down at his computer. It was only midday and he'd managed to ruin his schedule with over-enthusiasm, his tie with a broken pen, and his secretary with his shotty memory. He groans. 

Sharon's voice is much cheerier when she adds, "Maybe you should ask Steve." 

Just his name sent a cool, pepperminty chill up his spine. "No."

"No?"

"No," He shrugs. "He'll probably be busy. I'll take Brock."

Sharon doesn't hide her disgust. "Ew." 

Bucky glares at her. "Well, I don't really have a choice, Sharon." And, he's already dialed Brock's number on his phone. 

"Rumlow," The croaky voice on the other side of the line answers.

"Hey. What are you doing tonight?—Y'know what, it doesn't matter. Can it. You're my arm candy tonight." 

Brock laughs, "How flattering. As much as I'd like to, I can't be paraded around tonight, Buck. I've got a thing. A career life-or-death kind of thing." 

"Fuck." He frowns. "Well, then, good luck with your life-or-death thing." 

Bucky sat back in his seat and groaned a long, unabashedly-whiny groan. That left him with one option—a cheery, blond, blue-eyed option. Steve would answer the phone if he called, Bucky knows. And judging by the way Sharon shot him a grin and turned around, she knew it too.


Bucky hadn't stopped buzzing since then. He'd knocked out four of his own meetings, handled the rejects that didn't make it onto Clint's schedule, and even managed to sneak a falafel for lunch. Just then, he was seated in the back of a helicopter riding to Philadelphia, still shuffling through his sticky-notes.

That cheery, blond, blue-eyed option did not disappoint, either. He accommodated Bucky's schedule, going as far as agreeing to meet him on the tarmac, as the helicopter landed. 

Sharon had picked out Bucky's tuxedo—she picked out most of his clothes, if he were being honest—and for some reason, she'd gone with an all-black ensemble. A black jacket, black dress shirt, black silk tie, black slacks. It made him look sharp, he thought, but when they pulled up to the helipad, Bucky felt tepid anger begin bubbling in his gut. 

Sharon had evidently picked Steve's tuxedo, too. 

It wasn't exactly a white suit to his black one, but it was close to it—a gray, almost silvery gray suit, with a black shirt and a black tie. It made him look like a fucking angel, Bucky thought. With that crop of golden hair on his head, he already had a halo. All he was missing was a pair of fucking wings. 

The pilot gives him the all-clear to exit, and he hops out, grumbling something to himself about needing to fire Sharon. 

Steve beams a beautiful, genuine smile when he sees Bucky step out of the helicopter. Then, it darkens into his trademark, shit-eating grin. He gestures in-between the two of them, "I can't help but think Sharon was trying to say something here." 

Bucky wanted to snap at him, say something snarky to release some of the tension that was manifesting in his bones; but Steve didn't deserve the anger that Sharon had seeded.

And, before he could even process the sassy comment he'd originally wanted to give Steve, a wave of something Bucky didn't understand overwhelmed his senses. He felt like his skin was on fire—not a bad on fire, but a very badly-timed on fire. He took a minute to ground himself, blinking out at Steve, who quickly meets him with concern in his giant blue eyes. 

At first he felt dizzied, but Steve's scent, filled with a very sudden, very strong concern, seemed to envelope him in safety. The alpha looked down at him through thick blonde eyelashes. "You alright?"   

For some reason, he felt as though he couldn't lie to Steve. Not that he didn't want to, because he did, very much want to say that he was alright, but that he couldn't. His usual Yes-Bucky-Barnes-is-always-fine routine went out of the window; but no didn't exactly explain things either. So instead, he gives him a soft smile. "Hi. Thank you for coming all the way out here on such short notice."

"It's my pleasure." Steve whispers, but the concern is still there, still in the line of his furrowed brow. "I couldn't believe you called little old me."

"I hope I didn't mess up any plans you had for this evening." Bucky apologizes, but Steve just gives him a look. 

"Me?" Steve blinks, "You're saving me from paperwork and left over Thai food. You're a blessing, Bucky Barnes." 

They both hop into the back of one of Rhodey's sedans, and the driver lets them know Rhodey's estate is only a few minutes away. 

"I've never been arm-candy before." Steve whispers, and Bucky notices the rasp in his voice. 

"You'll be good at it." Bucky whispers back, his lips curled up in a smirk. 

"Is that as close to a compliment as we're getting tonight?"

"I think so." 

Steve laughs, and the sound makes Bucky's heart rattle in his chest. "Sharon might have been onto somethin'," He gestures between them again. "You look," He takes a quick breath, "good."

Bucky feels a wave of heat coming off of the alpha across the backseat; and the scent of pine struggling to peak through something Bucky was beginning to identify as desire. It makes Bucky's throat suddenly dry, and his lower abdomen feel tight and uncomfortable. "T-Thank you."

The car pulls off of a residential street onto a side street that was more large, view-impeding fences than it was house fronts. At the end of the street, the driver hits a button on his dashboard, and the large iron gates in front of them begin to slide open. Bucky was beginning to feel nervous, nerves manifesting as the goopy, sludgy feeling he felt in his belly, but something more, something annoyingly slowing and uncomfortable also there, making him feel dull and unready. 

The house came into view—a large, well-off home, but not gaudy or flashy. It made Bucky wonder how Tony and Rhodey were even friends; because their styles are so different. Before he even knew it, Steve was opening his door for him. 

Bucky kicks himself mentally. Now was not the time to be daydreamy and slow—he needed to be on his A-game, this client was not one he could afford to lose, especially not to bad first impressions. For a moment, he thinks he may be able to—but the second he feels Steve's hand on the small of his back, guiding him into the house, he almost passes out. 

Steve leans near his ear. "Are you sure you're alright?" Now, worry was coming off of Steve in waves, crashing over Bucky and doing absolutely nothing to calm him down. 

"M'fine." He whispers, but he wasn't. He wasn't at all, there was something wrong, very wrong, and he had no idea what it was. Bucky felt like he was either about to pass out or about to die, and he wasn't sure which of the two he wanted to do in James Rhodes' foyer. He sways a little, and Steve has to catch his arm to steady him. "Ok, maybe I'm not fine."

"What's going on, what's wrong?" Steve whispers, taking his palm to Bucky's forehead. "You've got a fever, James." 

The way Bucky's name sounds on Steve's lips makes him even dizzier. What was wrong with him?, he couldn't be suffering from exhaustion and still be horny. "I'm just a little over-worked. C'mon, let's get this over with." 

"Hey," Steve orders, which stops Bucky in his tracks. There was something commanding in his voice that hadn't been there earlier. "If you aren't up for this, tell me. I'll take you home." 

"I'm fine, okay?" Bucky raises his eyebrows at him, and the anger that had seeped into his body seemed to come right back out. Bucky tries to abandon Steve in the foyer, in vain, as Steve just faithfully trots behind him, into the giant room Rhodey'd prepared to receive his guests. 

There were easily a hundred people in there, and Bucky is immediately overwhelmed by their combined scents. Chocolate clashed with daisies, oranges with what Bucky thought smelled like new-car leather. It all made his eyes flutter, threatening to roll back into his head and land him on the floor. It makes him exude weird omega-y feelings of nausea, and it's barely a few seconds before Steve is at his side, murmuring, "Okay, I think you need a hospital."

"Barnes!" A deep, grating voice interrupts Steve's concern. "I see you found your arm-candy."

Bucky didn't need to turn around to know who it was—and neither did Steve. They both recognized the scent of cigarettes and rain.

"Rumlow," Bucky puts on a brave face and turns around. "This was your life-or-death situation?"

Brock grins, leaning forward with a sneaky look in his eyes, "Y'know what it means to get invited to Rhodes' company parties? A whole fuckin' lot to us little guys."

Steve, somewhat annoyed with being ignored by both his date and Mr. Cigarettes, clears his throat. "Rumlow, 'S nice to see you."

Brock embraces him with a firm handshake. Brock suddenly has a strong, commanding presence, one Bucky's never seen from him. "Rogers. I'm sorry to keep your office waiting so long for those asset allocation forms. We're waiting on Fury to return from London to sign off on them." 

"It's no rush, you know that." Steve smiles at him, and turns his attention to Bucky, who was definitely looking paler than he was a moment ago.

"So how's this happened?" Brock arches an eyebrow and glances between the two of them. "Someone lose a bet?"

Bucky grits his teeth so hard he fears they might chip. "I'm just cashing in a favor, Brock."

Steve takes a sharp breath and corrects his posture. Bucky thinks he's about to say something to Brock—but he doesn't, he just clicks his jaw shut and glares at him. 

"Good," Brock, correctly reading their responses, grins, "I don't know what I'd do if this," He gestures between them,  "became a thing." 

Someone to their left calls him over, so he leaves Bucky with a kiss on his cheek and a squeeze of his shoulder. Bucky couldn't look up at either alpha; but he could smell the growing scent of annoyance mingling with pine and peppermint. 

"That's Mr. Cigarettes?" Steve grits out.

"Leave it alone, please." Bucky whispers, scanning the room for a safe, empty wall he could lean against.

Off to their right, Bucky heard the boisterous laugh he would recognize anywhere: Clint. Bucky tries to focus on him—he's stood next to James Rhodes himself, and a group of onlookers, as he details a trip he took recently to Tibet. Bucky felt like if he hadn't passed out yet, hearing Clint talk about his trip to Everest would definitely make him faint. Behind him, he felt Steve's concern return in full force. 

"Are you sure—"

"I'm sure." Bucky snaps at him, but quickly stops himself, "I'm sorry, I'm just tired. Really tired."

"No, I get it." Steve puts a hand on his shoulder, and Bucky thinks he might just be able to melt into it. 

Suddenly, Clint's voice grew louder, "James!" 

He whipped around, plastering a smile on his face unconsciously. "Hey!"

"James, I'd like you to formally meet the man of the hour, James Rhodes." Clint approaches, Rhodey in tow. 

"James Barnes." Bucky presents his palm, and prays it isn't sweaty. "Pleasure to finally meet you."

"James Rhodes. Pleasure's mine, kid." Rhodey nods. He was a whole lot less-intimidating in person. On the phone, he sounded stern and unforgiving, but in person, Bucky saw the lines at the corners of his lips from a lifetime spent smiling, and realized he'd gotten himself worked up for nothing. "I've been looking forward to meeting the kid who got himself 60 percent of Stark Finance's clientele in a single meeting." 

"What can I say?" Bucky gives him a shy smile. 

"And he's humble?" Rhodey grins at Clint, whose got his arms linked across his chest, and is smiling fondly at Bucky.

"Look at him," Clint sighs, "My golden boy." He cuts a glare at Rhodey, "You can't have him, either, so don't even go trying."

"We'll see about that." James smiles. "Steven. Good to see you, buddy."

"Rhodey," Steve acknowledges him, taking his outstretched hand for a shake. 

"Two of you, stick around later. Maybe we can talk a little business." Rhodey nods, and heads towards another set of people who were eagerly awaiting an audience with him.

The second he was gone, though, Bucky felt the last of his resolve crack. Everything overwhelmed him—the lights, the sounds, the smells, all of it—but he could hear Clint talking to him. 

"Bucky, buddy, what's going on?" Clint says carefully, his voice a low whisper. "You look like you just hit a ball of coke, why are your eyes all spaced-out?"

"Fuck," Bucky whispers, "I don't know, I don't know, Clint. I think I'm getting sick."

Clint's body language changes almost instantly, he leans forward, taking Bucky to the side of the crowd. Steve follows close behind. With a firm hand on his shoulder, he leans forward and covertly scents his neck. When he pulls back, he's got a weird look on his face. "When was your last heat?"

Bucky glares up at him, resenting that he'd mention something as private as his heats in front of Steve. Steve seems unperturbed by the shift of the conversation—concern still knotted his eyebrows together, but he looked almost relieved that Bucky's symptoms weren't indicative of some life-threatening disease, and hopefully just an untimely heat. 

"I'm not due for a heat for two months, Clint." Bucky whispers, but now that Clint had mentioned it, he realized that it made a lot of sense.

The overwhelming scents, the sensitivity to light and sound, the uncontrollable urge to jump Steve's bones—it was all too consistent with one of his heats. He glanced over at the alpha, who was looking at him with the strangest look in his bright blue eyes—a mix of concerninterest, and a strange feeling of protection was strong in the air coming off of him. Bucky had the strangest urge to crawl up against his chest and lay there. 

"Go." Clint whispers, having given him a bout of instruction he hadn't been listening to. "I'll cover for you, alright? Just go, find somewhere to sleep it off, and head home first thing in the morning."

Bucky furrowed his eyebrows at him, not understanding. 

"I've got him," Steve whispers to Clint. "We'll find a hotel." 

Clint glares the most threatening glare Bucky thinks he's ever seen the man give anyone. "You fuckin' better, Rogers. Call me when he's safe." 


Bucky fell asleep in the cab. 

Passed out was the terminology anyone else would have used, but he'd like to think he fell asleep on the ride to the hotel. He came-to in the back of a cab—his head lain across Steve's lap. He scrambled to sit up, and Steve put his hands up in confession. 

"Sorry," Steve murmurs, and Bucky could smell that he was—there was a bit of conflict in his scent too, like he was fighting himself. Bucky could smell it in the smoke lingering above all his other scents. 

"Where-where are we goin?" Bucky glanced through the window as they pulled up in front of The Bellevue. It's a giant hotel on a busy street—but Bucky could suddenly feel bile rising in his throat. "I need to throw up."

"Not in the cab!" The driver shouts. "Get him out of here, blondie." 

Steve glares at him, but pays him the fare and comes around to help Bucky out. "C'mon, let's get you inside."

Bucky barely remembers a large, open lobby, with lots of marble and crystal fixings, but he was clinging to Steve's side for fear his legs might go out and he would land flat on his face. Steve smelled good, too. Like a campfire Bucky was currently picturing in his head—a campfire with lots of kids roasting marshmallows and telling ghost stories. He really was trying to focus on Steve's words, but he was having a difficult time; all he'd heard was, "...two rooms...next to each other...no, not my husband." 

The last bit made him frown. Would it be so bad to be a husband to him? He wondered for a minute. He'd thought about marriage, but it was a foreign concept that was lightyears away—something he only ever thought about when his heats came around. Suddenly, he resolved that it was something he wanted, and when this hell of a heat was over with, he'd do more thinking about it. 

Next thing he knew, they were in an elevator—and after the world's longest blink, they were in front of a door, and Steve was fumbling with keycards. 

The door swings open to reveal a large, open room with a giant, fluffy looking bed that Bucky made it his mission to land on. He kicks off his shoes on the way there, and quickly stumbles into the giant, fluffy sheets. 

"You should take your jacket off." Steve comes over, pulling the sheets back. 

"No, no." Bucky murmurs, pulling them over his head. "Sleep."

"You're burning up." Steve bargains, "Don't you feel warm?"

"Yes." Bucky says simply, "Hot." Then, it's own sentence, he frowns, "Sleep."

"I know." Steve says with a little laugh, "I know you're sleepy, but please undress? Just your jacket?" 

Bucky makes a weak attempt to take his suit jacket off, but it doesn't do much budging. Suddenly, warm, heavy hands are at his shoulders, helping him out of the constricting fabrics. The second that heat is gone, Bucky misses it. So, he whimpers, "Shirt too?"

Steve smiles softly. "You want your shirt off, too?" 

Bucky nods, and Steve's deft fingers begin undoing his cufflinks, and then his buttons. About half-way down his chest, he pauses, then takes a breath before pulling the hem out of Bucky's waistband. Rough palms swipe up his collarbones and over his shoulder, discarding the linen shirt on the bed behind him. Steve's fingers still linger at his shoulders, and Bucky finds himself wanting to open his mouth and ask him to touch him, but the words are lost in his throat, coming out in a broken bit of sound. 

He could smell the scent of smoke coming off of the alpha so strongly, it was as if Bucky could see the plumes of it billowing off of him. He was fighting with something and losing, Bucky could see it in the way his eyes dance between his own. 

"Steve?" Bucky murmurs, a half-assed attempt to ask if he was alright, but his foggy mind only allowed the one word. 

"Yes," He replies, inching a bit closer. Their faces were almost close enough to kiss, and Bucky felt something in his head chanting 'Please, please, please,'.

"I don't know what's happening to me," Bucky whispers, dipping forward a bit. Their noses touch slightly, and Steve exhales so hard, Bucky can feel the heat on his bare chest. His voice is shaky when he adds, "I'm sorry,"

"Don't be." Steve commands, leaning forward even closer—almost as if he'd attempted to take Bucky's lips, but pulled away at the last second. 

Bucky felt the stir of something between his legs—Steve's hand and landed between his parted legs when he'd first moved closer, and at his failed attempt to kiss him, he'd gotten even closer and brushed up against the erection Bucky didn't even realize was there. 

Bucky dips his head down, embarrassment thick in the air, and his hair begins to fall forward into his face. "I-I don't know what's going on."

Steve's fingers tip his face back up, and Bucky's met by the fiercest expression he's ever seen on his cheery, blue-eyed blond. Bucky could almost taste his scent—arousal, protectiveness, an and overall warmth. A carnal, primal sort of lust filled the space between them, and Steve's eyes narrow on Bucky's lips, and he whispers, "I think I do."

A moan surfaces in his throat, and Bucky bites his tongue to keep it from escaping. Steve, he thinks, still heard it, because he curses under his breath, and quickly staggers back, away from him. He immediately felt the loss of Steve's warmth.

Almost as if he'd only just realized what he was doing, he curses again, and shuts his eyes tight. "I'm—I'm going to go, okay?" Steve whispers, backing away. He almost trips over Bucky's shoes, but keeps going towards the door. "I'll be right next door, okay. Just—just call me if you need anything."

"Steve," Bucky whimpers, but just like that, Steve was gone. In the moments after he left, Bucky felt that fogginess leave his brain—and for the first time for the evening, he finally had cohesive thoughts. Unfortunately, they weren't good thoughts. 

What was going on? His heats have never made him feel like this before. He could handle his heats, but this? This was something he'd never felt before. His entire body yearned for something, someone, he realizes, and that someone had just walked—ran, really—away from him. He couldn't get a grip on his own emotions, either. He felt as though someone was spinning a wheel and whatever it landed on was how he very suddenly and very strongly felt. He thought of the touch of Steve's hand on his chin, and it made him sad—and within the minute, tears began forming in his eyes. 

This is stupid, he thinks to himself, but it doesn't make the feeling go away, in fact, it makes it worse. It's the last thought he should be having, but he felt it nonetheless, why didn't Steve want him? He'd wanted him before, hadn't he? Did he grow disgusted with him, because of his untimely heat? Brock always hated his heats; he says they made him too needy, and Brock doesn't do needy. He wonders if all alphas are the same; if none of them would ever want him because he was so inconsistent. So strong and distant and cold one minute, and a needy, blubbering mess another. 

He reached out and pulled one of the oversized pillows to his chest, and let the thud of a sudden, sharp migraine take him to sleep. 

 

 

 

Chapter Text


 

Bucky woke up with the fiercest headache he thinks he's ever felt in his entire life. 

He'd been hungover before—wildly, horrendously hungover—so he knew what a rough night felt like; but even the night after an entire bottle of tequila was nothing compared to how he felt right then. His brain seemed to pulse in his head, and his body ached all over. His bones felt like they were made of cement, weighing him down. He felt like he could just melt into the sheets.

With all the strength he could muster, he flings his hand down to his stomach, pressing the skin there. He felt a little swollen, bloated, he thinks. A little lower, and he feels the evidence of last night's encounter with Steve; he was still aroused, and suddenly, he felt all of the feelings that came along with his heats, in full force. Lust, disgust, yearning, confusion, thirst.

"Fuuuuuuck." He groans, stretching against the pillows. His joints sound off in protest with a dull, throbbing pain coming from each of them; but he powers through it, grateful for the the release his spine allowed. 

Then, he began to piece together the night before. He felt his face get all hot—oh God. He'd made a fool of himself, hadn't he? Thank fuck he hadn't passed out in front of Rhodey; but Steve. He'd made a mess of himself in front of Steve. He was beet red now, he was certain of it. He'd started a heat in front of Steve; he'd gotten all weird and needy in front of him, and would still have to face him this morning. 

He can't help but bury his face into the pillows. 

Almost on cue, his stomach rumbles, quickly followed by the sudden cramping his heats always brought along. "Motherfucker," He groans, doubling over at the sudden pain.

His cramps were always bad—that was the reason he never kept up with suppressants for very long, because once you stopped them, they caused heats that were worse than they typically were before you started them. The way they wrapped around his lower abdomen and shot up his spine always incapacitated him during normal heats, but whatever sort of sudden heat this was clearly intended to kill him. 

He stumbles to his feet, and the room seems to spin for the first few seconds he's standing, but he pushes himself forward, towards the bathroom. There, he gets a good, long look at himself in the mirror. His eyes look weary, a strong reflection of how he felt on the inside, too. His hair is fluffy and disheveled, and his dress pants are thoroughly wrinkled from having slept in them. With a heavy hand, he turns the shower on, and watches the heat fog up the mirror, casting his reflection into a haze. 

As he began to undress, his pocket began vibrating. Sharon.

"Hi." He croaks, setting the phone on the vanity. 

"Hi there, Bug." Sharon whispers, guilt laced through her voice. "Clint said you weren't feeling too well? I've cleared your day, and made you an appointment with Cho for when you get back to the city."

"I'm fine." Bucky bites, trying not to double over at the sudden set of cramps that tore through his belly. "S'just a badly-timed heat." 

"That was probably brought on by stress." Sharon argues, "Go to see Dr. Cho. Even if she just pipes you full of IVs and sends you home, it'll be worth the visit."

"Just get me home, first." He steps into the shower, and groans as the hot water scalds his skin. "Mother—"

"Are you alright?" 

"Yes." Bucky grits out, "Get me on the next flight home."

"Steve's got you both covered." She sounds like she's frowning. "He is with you, right?"

"Yes." 

"Good. Try not to be short with him? He's been looking out for you." She whispers, then with a bit too much excitement, "Is he...in the same room as you?" 

With no one to absorb his angry glare, he settles on casting it up at the ceiling instead. It didn't make him feel any better, so he sighs. "He's next door. I'll call you when I land."

She began to protest, but Bucky just reaches out and ends the call. 

Bucky felt that sway of his, and suddenly, he went from being embarrassed about the night before, to being a bit angry about it. Angry with himself for being so weak; angry at Steve for being so goddamn perfect and gentlemanly. But mainly angry at biology, as ignorant as it sounded.

He'd made his peace with his omega status a long time ago; it was a long an arduous journey to said peace, but he'd made it there. As a kid, he'd blamed himself. He could still see the look of disappointment on his father's stern face—not that his parents didn't love him, God, they did, sometimes too much, he thinks—but it was just there, in the way he caught them looking at him sometimes, with entirely more pity than he warranted.

Then, as a teenager, and well into his college years, he'd stopped blaming himself and started blaming just about anything else. His parents, his genes, the fucking universe; something had to be out to get him, there was no other explanation for such a mistake. A mistake, he remembered; for so long, he thought it was a mistake, that he'd been sabotaged somehow, and it made him hateful. It also made him diligent. Painstakingly diligent, but it paid off.

These days, he respected his designation. He'd grown into it. He'd stopped trying to project, and embraced his natural submissiveness. Now, he used it to his advantage. Not as well as Sharon did hers, but enough to satisfy him in a way he never thought being an omega would. 

But standing there in that scalding hot shower, he was transported back to his senior year of high school, when his hate was its strongest. He'd heard from the other omega boys at school that if you starved yourself soon enough after presenting, you could reverse the designation. Of course, it was all bullshit; but he remembers just how badly he'd wanted it to work, and just how angry he was when it didn't. That anger returned in droves, lighting his skin up much hotter than the water of the shower ever could. 

He didn't realize he was clutching the glass door of the shower until he felt the prick of the edge against his palm, and the warm trickle of blood down his forearm. Panic comes to his mind first, then to his lips, "Ow, fuck," 

He's got a towel around his hips in a moment, and his palm under the cold running faucet in another. There isn't very much blood, but it stings, making Bucky whine a bit. Heavy thuds on the front door interrupt his pity party, so he wraps his wound in a white washcloth and makes to answer the door. 

Bucky isn't completely sure what he'd expected to be on the other side, but Steve, disheveled, in yesterday's clothes and somehow still handsome, is what greets him. He's got a bit of a dazed look in his eyes, as though he were expecting to see something else. 

"Oh." He mumbles, furrowing his eyebrows together. "I thought I—I thought I heard you hurt yourself." 

"M'fine."

Steve balks at his sudden harshness. It's a sharp contrast to last night's exchange, but Steve doesn't seem bothered by it for more than a moment. "How are you feeling then? Better?"

"Yeah, better." Bucky nods, and of course, that's when his cramps decide to make a liar of him. The sudden pain catches him off-guard, making him clutch onto the wall—with his wounded hand nonetheless. He barely manages to stay upright, squeaking out, "Fuck,"

"Oh my God," Steve springs forward, catching his lower back and steadying him immediately. "Bucky—you've got to be dizzy. Let me get some food into you."

"M'fine." He snaps, shrugging out of Steve's arm. 

Steve casts a questioning glance at him, but can't for the life of him read what's going on behind those stormy gray eyes. "You aren't fine, look at you! You can barely stand up." 

"I can stand fine," Bucky snaps again, bracing his back against the wall. "Just—give me a minute."

"Let me help you." Steve reaches out towards his shoulder, but Bucky quickly smacks it away. 

"No." He grits, another cramp wracking through his stomach, "I—ah—I said I'm fine." 

"Look," Steve is the one who's snapping now—and just the sheer volume of his voice made Bucky shiver, "You aren't fine. You're sick, and there's nothing wrong with being ill, Bucky. But so help me God, if you don't let me help you, I'm calling Sharon to come make you." 

Bucky looks up at him, and for as hard as he willed it not to, his lip still quivers.

See, normally, he had a difficult enough time with people talking to him too roughly. His designation made dealing with raised voices difficult enough as it was; but in his heat, exhausted as he was right then, and it being Steve? It was all too much, and his eyes began to water; and he hates it. It lights that fire in his gut again. Anger, quickly shifting from tepid to raging, suddenly shows its face.

"Fine." He snaps, trying to conceal the shake in his voice; for naught, because Steve had already smelled it on him. 

"M'sorry." Steve groans, "You don't understand, Buck." He reaches a slow hand forward and touches Bucky's cheek, where a tear had escaped. "You, being like this. I don't know, it's doing something to me."  Bucky looks up at those big blue eyes and blinks at him, so Steve clears his throat and rephrases, "I think—I think I may be rutting." 

Bucky's eyes widen. Whether Steve had meant it to have the effect it did or not, it did. "Oh. I see."

The anger dissipate. Just that sentence made his omega brain lose its shit. He didn't consciously decide to start pumping out alpha-pleasing pheromones, but it happened, and he could tell by the way Steve's jaw tensed. Even when he wasn't in heat, Bucky preferred alphas in rut. Especially Brock; Brock got possessive and rough, and Bucky looked forward to it every few months—it was some of the best sex they'd ever had. 

But Steve was the alpha in front of him, not Brock, and Steve's ruts are just as magnetic, it seemed. It explained his altered state last night, didn't it? An alpha's rutting scents would be enough to make any omega lose their marbles, but Steve's? Steve's was enough to bring Bucky to his knees.

Bucky lets out a heavy breath of relief, "That explains a lot."  

"Does it?"

"Yeah," Bucky pushes his hair back, feeling a little bit better. Maybe he wasn't completely a blubbering idiot. "You and your scent are driving me fuckin' crazy,"

Steve makes a little chuckling sound, and Bucky lets him help him to his feet again. His voice is a twinge more playful now, "My scent always do that? Or is it just since I started rutting?" Bucky shoots him a glare, but before he can reply, Steve's attention focuses on his hand. "What happened there?"

"Cut myself in the shower." Bucky supplies, honestly enough.

"Oh," It was as though Steve had just realized Bucky was essentially naked. 

Interest turned to arousal very quickly, but Steve clears his throat, trying to hide it. Bucky couldn't help but return the sentiment—Steve smelled really good, like he always did. Intensity bubbled in his body; he couldn't tell if it was anger, or attraction or what, but it was there, and it was strong. He pauses, taking in the side of Steve's face—his jawline was sharp, sharper than he'd noticed it being before. The column of his throat looked lean, and the skin there soft and probably fragrant—and he realizes just how fucking badly he wanted to press his nose there and scent him properly. His heat-heightened instincts quickly took over. 

 "Steve?" Bucky whispers, inching towards him a little. 

Steve takes a sharp breath, and Bucky smelled that tell-tale struggle of his—smoldering woodsmoke. "We should get you back to New York, yeah?—But, breakfast. You want breakfast first?" 

"Steve,"

Heat began to build up again, very quickly. "There's a little coffee shop up the street. Does coffee sound good?"

"Steve, j'st fuckin' look at me." 

"James, I'm trying really hard, here." Steve whispers, still not looking at him. "I—I don't want to do anything you'll regret,"

"Y'don't think I know what I want?" He's warm, fuck, he's so warm;  Bucky almost swoons. His brain is moving a mile a minute, but also not nearly fast enough for him to think of what to say next. 

"I didn't say that." Steve snaps back, "M'saying, maybe, this isn't the time."

"What? I can't make my own decisions because I'm in heat?" Bucky glares at his lips, they look so soft, "Steve, I know what I want."

"Fucking hell," Steve curses under his breath, and when his eyes dip down to Bucky's lips, he curses again. "You got any idea what you're doing to me?"

"I have some idea." Bucky whispers, sending his hands to Steve's shirt, to fiddle with the buttons. Steve's jump to grab at Bucky's wrists.

"We can't do this, Bucky." He whispers, but his voice is rough, a lie, he realizes. Bucky feels him swallow hard. Steve's hands slide up to cup both of his Bucky's shoulders, and assumes its to push him away, but when they settle there, Bucky feels the rumble of a moan in Steve's chest. "We can't." 

Bucky felt like it was becoming more and more difficult to reign in his temper. He scoffs, and lets his hands drop against his thighs. "Yeah, okay."

"No, no," Steve furrows his eyebrows and closes the space between them, "Don't do that, don't be mad at me."

"M'not mad," Bucky glares, his voice raising, "I'm—" Horny, he almost says,  

"You're strung up on your hormones. Me too." Steve snaps. "Y'think I don't want to?"

Bucky comes closer—a threat and an invitation all the same. "I dunno, Rogers, do you?" His shoulders relax, and he looks down with a groan; his body, however, couldn't be more excited. His skin itches to feel Steve's against it; it's like he's a touch-starved teen all over again.

"C'mon, is it so bad to wait just a while longer?" Steve whispers, lacing his fingers in Bucky's hair. The action made Bucky's hips stir, and he whimpers something suspiciously close to yes, which makes Steve chuckle. "Won't you let me get a few more dates out of you? S'it so bad for me to want to make this special?"

"Special?" Bucky chuckles. "Y'gonna try to woo me, Rogers?"

"S'no secret that I want you. I have for a long time now." Steve whispers, and Bucky thinks his heart straight-up fucking stops. Steve's thumb trails Bucky's cheek, settling at his bottom lip, "I've just been waiting for you to catch up."

I'm caught up, I'm caught all the way up, Bucky almost whines.

"I want you to want me just as bad," Steve's face comes closer to Bucky's, and they almost touch noses, but Steve pauses to add, "And not just because of your heats, Bucky. I want you to really want me. Not like you want Mr. Cigarettes." 

Bucky felt heat rising to his cheeks, and he suddenly smelled the sweet twinge of peppermint. Steve pulls away, and grins a lopsided little smirk at the look of lust in Bucky's eyes. 

"You ever look at Mr. Cigarettes like that?" Steve's voice is calm, but his body is radiating jealousy suddenly, loud and clear. Bucky opens his mouth to refute, but Steve's voice is reduced to a grumble, "'Cause I don't think you do,"

"Really?" Bucky wasn't sure what game Steve was suddenly playing at—but he was beginning to forget about the drudgery of his heat.

"No, 'don't think you do." Steve's not even looking at Bucky's eyes anymore, he's swiping over all of him—fully on display, save the towel around his waist. "You look at him like a kid looks at toy, one they've played with too many times for it to be fun; but they've had it for so long that they won't get rid of it."

Again, Bucky wants to refute, but that was awfully close to the truth. "You barely know us." Us, Bucky almost chokes on the lie; there was no us with Brock. It was Brock, his job, and then sometimes Bucky, whenever he wanted sex.

"I know enough. I know he thinks of you as his—like you're something he owns."

"Aren't I?" Bucky whispers, wanting to see how far Steve would be pushed.

Steve's scent turned back to smoke again, and he slowly swipes his eyes to Bucky's shoulder, then growls out, "I don't see a mark your neck."

"Well—no, because we haven't bonded—"

"Then you don't belong to anyone. Yet." 

He was close enough, and hot enough that James thought he would pass out from the sheer heat coming off of the rutting alpha. He felt his blood head south and groans, knowing it wouldn't even be taken care of—at least not by Steve. A mumble rolls through his lips, "Well then, I guess we're going back to the city—"

He's cut off by Steve's lips crashing into his own. Bucky groans, and barely has a moment's breath before Steve takes his mouth again. They meshed together easily, with way more force from Steve than Bucky had expected. He cradled Bucky's head for a second, but then their embrace became more aggressive, their mouths panted and sucked and nibbled, and their hands tugged hair and gripped skin. Steve's fingers clawed at Bucky's bare chest, his shoulders, his back, marking him up—and Bucky couldn't help but moan at it. 

They separate at Steve's prompting, and they both take a moment—a moment filled with heavy, ragged breathing and sharp glares—to catch themselves. Steve licks his lips, but Bucky is the one who talks. His voice is wrecked, but his anger bubbles up again, deceptively disguised in a whine, "Y'can't keep doin' that to me, Stevie. You can't just give me a little, then take away what I want."

And that does it.

See, Steve had looked like he was about to apologize, about to toss Bucky an empty 'sorry' and then suggest they get ready to leave the hotel for the city; but hearing Bucky call him 'Stevie' is what it took to completely dissolve the last bit of his self-control. His eyes seem to shift from their cheery blue to a dark sapphire, which made Bucky conflicted—he couldn't decide whether it scared him or aroused him. 

"Say that again." Steve says hotly. 

For a moment, Bucky is confused. He blinks out at the other man, still savoring the taste of Steve on his lips. With confusion laced throughout, he breathes,  "What?"

Steve is just as sharp again, "My name, say it again."

The slowest of smiles takes Bucky's lips. His entire body was chanting now. Yes, yes, for fuck's sake, yes!  He needed to push his buttons some more—take him over the edge. So, he purses his lips and frowns, "I don't think I will."

But Steve is on complete alpha auto-pilot. He's against him in a second, their long bodies each causing the other to buckle a bit; a hand quickly knotted in Bucky's hair, making him look up at him. "I said, 'say it'."

Though he's literally smaller than Steve, and he wanted very much to groan his name out again, he refuses to concede that easily. He knows what Steve's rut was asking of him: submission. And, well, Steve would have to take that if he wanted it. He blinks up at him with a challenge, "Make me." 

Just like that, Steve snapped. 

If Bucky'd thought Steve was being rough when they'd kissed, he had no words for what he'd turned into just then. Bucky's brain felt like that fog had returned, but instead of it being a meddling, interfering fog, this time it's a welcomed, ethereal fog, bringing him that fuzzy gutsy feeling he needed to submit to Steve. A chorus of "Say it," came from Steve, peppered around kisses and the wet sounds of him leaving hickeys all over James' neck, but Bucky wouldn't indulge him, not yet. 

Suddenly, the hands that were holding Bucky together were gone, delving lower and leaving the trace of red nail-marks down his front. Steve stalls at his waist, but only long enough to discard the towel that was there. Oddly enough, Bucky didn't feel weird or exposed in front of Steve—which he always felt with Brock, no matter how many times they'd undressed in front of each other. No, with Steve, he felt good. He felt like this was exactly where he was supposed to be, about to do exactly what he wanted to be doing. Maybe it was the heat, maybe it was Steve; he didn't know, and he didn't care.

"Oh my God," The whimper is ripped from his throat when Steve takes him in his hand. "Ah," His voice is wrecked, but the fireworks that Steve set off up his spine needed to be rewarded, so he whines out, "Oh my God, Stevie,"

A deep, appreciative groan comes from the back of Steve's throat, and Bucky has to cling to Steve's shoulders to keep himself from falling over. His legs were going go go out—and as if Steve read his mind, the blond sends one strong palm to Bucky's ass to help support his weight. Just when Bucky thinks he's going to actually pass out from all the excitement, Steve lets him go. 

"No, no," Bucky whines, trying to pull him against him. 

"Wait." Steve orders, and with a strong palm against his chest, presses Bucky against the wall. Standing there nude, Bucky could only look out at Steve with heavy lids. Slowly with one hand, he begins to undo his pants, and Bucky can't help but groan at the sight. Steve Rogers, all perfectly pale skin and blond hair, stripping for him. "Wait for me, Buck,"

Once his pants were around his ankles, Steve doesn't hesitate to pull Bucky back against his chest. Only this time, his hand cupped both of them, not just Bucky. 

It's a feeling for which Bucky didn't have words—just a broken squabble of sounds that Steve quickly muted with a hot kiss.  The blond rakes his fingers into Bucky's hair, snatching up a handful of it. 

That familiar bundling in his gut let him know that he was getting close, and Bucky whimpers at the thought of Steve having to stop; he wouldn't be able to handle it, he'd simply fall apart if Steve wasn't holding him any longer.

"Yes," Bucky whines, "S'close Stevie," 

On instinct, Bucky tries to pull away when he began to orgasm, but Steve's nails dug into the back of his thigh, keeping him still.

It was like the stars in the sky had all aligned and everything was right in the world—that was a cheesy, stupid, omega thought to have, but that was how he felt. It felt air had been forced out of his lungs—which was probably because Steve's hand had made its way to Bucky's throat, right as he climaxed. 

He wouldn't be able to catch his breath even if Steve wasn't holding his neck—because he thinks the look on Steve's face right when he came was the most beautiful thing he'd ever seen. His blond eyebrows pinched up in the center; his lips clicked open, revealing the hot, pink tongue that had just been in Bucky's mouth, and his gorgeous blue eyes full of pleasure.

They both came down from their highs in a moment of huffed breaths, just stood there, lazily holding onto each other. Bucky thinks he could stay there forever—there being Steve's arms—but the blond slowly untangled himself from Bucky's with a hazy smile. "So, 'Stevie', huh? You been callin' me that when I'm not lookin'?"

Bucky weakly hits his shoulder, causing Steve to rumble with laughter. "Fuck off,"

"Clearly, I don't too much mind," Steve whispers, offering Bucky a soft, slow kiss. "Mhm. I think I might like it. Sounds so sweet when you say it." 

Butterflies. Bucky felt like there were hundreds—no, thousands—of them fluttering around in his gut. 

Steve sighs against the crook of Bucky's neck. "I should get you back to Sharon and Clint, before they make good on their threats."

"I don't want to go yet," Bucky almost whines. "Yeah, of course."

Steve smiles against his jaw now, "Oh, so no more fightin' me?" He hums, "You're pretty hard to resist when you're fightin' me, Buck."

Why was it that Steve literally holding his cock didn't make him even slightly embarrassed, but his teasing lit him up red? Either way, he didn't think he had the energy or the heart to argue. "Well, you're fun to fight, Stevie." He swipes his fingers up Steve's neck in a tease. 

Steve can't help but give him a growl of a peck on his lips, before dipping down to fetch his towel. "Breakfast first. Then maybe I'll think about letting you run away from me." 


Steve and Bucky'd had indeed had breakfast together—both of them looking strangely hungover—and it hadn't been the slightest bit odd. They fell into a happy rhythm of conversation; banter and jokes. And when parting at the airport, they made plans to see each other soon. Friday, Bucky thought, wasn't soon enough. The moment they were apart, Bucky felt like he didn't know what to do with himself. 

Sharon, however, knew exactly what he needed to be doing. Imagine, he'd gotten all the way to there, only to have Sharon with big bright eyes full of concern, refuse to let him into the office. So, Stan drove him home. 

There, he found himself a little upset. 

A few things plagued his mind, and made his heat just that much worse. For starters, he really wanted to be near Steve. Whether it was his body wanting Steve's because of his heat, or because he missed that stupid, dopey smile of his, he didn't know; he just wanted him closer than he was. Then, even after a shower and putting fresh sheets on his bed, he couldn't bring himself to lay in it. Somehow, even after being cleaned, it still smelled like cigarettes and rain. And finally, not having the person he wanted near, nor the bed feeling comfortable enough for him to nest, his heat really began to do a number on his spirit.

He'd done his best to build a makeshift nest in his living room. He very well could have used the spare bedroom, but with his sister coming for the holidays, he didn't want to get too comfortable in there. So, the couch was his nest, complete with just about every blanket he owned, and the mini-fridge from the bar relocated to an arm's reach away and stocked full of water. 

And wine. Lots of wine. 

There was something off about this heat, though. Typically, he handled everything fairly well—except the cramps; he was a grown man and would never get over cramps—but this heat kept throwing him off. As the days went by, he felt worse and worse. Just when he thought he'd begun managing his symptoms, new ones emerged. The room was either insanely too hot, or entirely too cold. He either needed all of the blankets, or an ice bath. He needed to consume everything in his house, or he was moments away from throwing up. None of it made any sense.

The tv had been playing for a while now—he'd gotten halfway through a season of some cop show before he realized he hadn't been watching it whatsoever. His brain decided to dwell on the thought of Steve, instead. He'd begun to lull his way to sleep thinking of his broad, pale chest and the wisps of blond body hair leading to his waistband, but firm raps on his front door tear him away. 

Slowly, oh, so slowly, he wrapped himself in a blanket and made for the door. He didn't even bother looking through the peephole—only one person he knew would bang on his door like that. 

"Buck!" Sharon squeals, her eyebrows linked together in a scowl. "Why aren't you answering your phone?" 

He takes a long look at her—she wasn't coming from work. Instead of her normal business attire, she's wearing a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt. A vest, of course, also accompanies the casual look, because Bucky could feel the chill coming through the open door. Fortunately, he was in the 'holy fuck it's so hot' stage of his mood swing, so the chill did little to upset him. 

"I don't know where it is." He says honestly. 

That frightens her more than anything else he could have said. Bucky? With his work phone not fused to his palm? She clicked into full panic mode. "I'm calling Cho."

She brushes into the apartment, and leads Bucky back to his nest on the couch. The energy he needed to argue with her was nowhere to be found, which also frightened her. 

Sharon is a lot like Bucky sometimes. See, they both got this way, overworking and antsy, when something came up that they didn't understand or couldn't handle. Sharon is an omega too, but she's been on suppressants for almost her entire life—at most, she's had two or three pubescent heats. So really, she had no firsthand idea what Bucky was going through, but she thinks she knows enough to know that this is not normal. 

He's not sure how much time had passed after he sat down on the couch; he just vaguely remembers Sharon settling at his desk and working through all of his missed calls. Soon enough though, the doorbell rang, and he watches her dart to her feet to answer it. 

In an instant, Dr. Helen Cho was in front of him. He looks out at her kind face, at the tuft of thick, straight black hair that had escaped her ponytail and drifted into her face. 

"Oh, my. Finally!" She smiles quietly. "Well, where's the other one?" 

Both Sharon and Bucky look at her with different degrees of confusion, but it's Sharon who answers, "Other what?" 

"Where's his alpha?" She blinks at them, and when they don't respond, she continues, "His alpha? He's just in heat, he needs his alpha."

"M'not bonded, Cho. Y'know that." Bucky whispers, pulling the blanket down to reveal a smooth, unmarked shoulder. 

Her face falls, and suddenly, she too looks confused. "But—" She dives into her purse, producing a little pen-light, and quickly shines it in Bucky's eyes. Both she and Sharon watch his eyes not respond. "Have you been having hot-flashes? Dropping time? Losing your balance?"

"Yes." Bucky frowns. 

"This is important, James," Cho whispers, "Have you had sex with anyone since your heat started?" 

"No!" He barks, "What does it matter? M'just in heat; there's no need for all this—"

"Steve," Sharon whispers, then to Cho, "Yes, yes he has had sex—"

"I didn't fuck Steve!" Bucky shouts, eager to defend himself. "I didn't!"

"You didn't have any sexual contact with this person?" Cho presses, and both she and Sharon glare at him.

He balks, stuttering out, "We—well, what do you mean by contact?" 

"Oh my God, Bucky," Sharon shouts, "This is important! Did you touch, did you fuck, did you blow each other, anything?

"Yes," He breathes out, "We—we touched. Why does it matter?" 

"Did—did you orgasm?" Cho asks, her eyes locked on his.

He scoffs, his voice strained "Come on—"

"Did you both orgasm?" Sharon presses, her voice strangely hopeful. 

"Yes!" He glares.

Sharon and Cho share a glance, and Cho stutters out, "There—there's a chance that," she trails off, looking apologetically at Bucky.

"What?" He barks.

"I—I know how you don't want kids," Cho backpedals. 

"I'm pregnant?" He yells, "I can't be pregnant! We didn't have sex!" He's dizzy now—his chest is rising and falling so fast he thinks he's going to pass out.

"No!" Cho says, holding his shoulders to keep him from falling over, "No, no! You aren't pregnant." 

"Then," He heaves a breath, "Then what?"

"Your body is preparing for a baby." She explains, "And not just like it would during a regular heat, either. It's preparing itself early, because it thinks you've bonded with a new alpha." 

He glares at her. "We didn't bond. We didn't have sex. We didn't do anything! How can I be bonded to someone who didn't mark me?"

"It's rare," Sharon touches his shoulder, "Really rare." 

"We call it an unexpressed bond," Cho explains, "It's an evolutionary failsafe of sorts. It prevents omegas from going unbound, keeping our species reproducing, even outside of bonds. Your symptoms wont go away until you consummate the mark; just like with a normal bond." 

"So, what?" He glares, "I've just got to go fuck Steve? And this all goes away?" The two women hesitate.

"Not—not exactly. The symptoms go away, but the bond is consummated. He'd be your biological alpha." Cho whispers. "I don't know this Steve—is he someone you're courting? Is he your partner?"

"He could be," Sharon whispers hopefully. 

"He's a fling." Bucky whines.

"You're biologically bound to him, James." Cho explains, "You've got to think hard about this—is he really just a fling? Or is he someone you want to keep in your life? Otherwise you'll have to break the bond."

Bucky stalls. He'd heard about breaking bonds. It's a painful, arduous process, both physically and mentally. Both parties' bodies needed to detox, and Bucky had heard horror stories. People compared it to going through drug withdrawals of the worst kind. It's not that he'd never met people with broken bonds, he knew lots of them who had survived to tell the tale, but their stories never went well. New spouses not bonding well with step-children; omegas incapable of breaking their bonds even when their alphas had moved on; divorcees having to get plastic surgery to remove their marks. He knew what was in store for him, and frankly, he wasn't scared of any of it.

What he was scared of though, was Steve's reaction. And even more, there was a voice in the back of his head telling him that he didn't know if he even wanted to break the bond. 

He could picture it; a stupidly perfect brownstone in Brooklyn, a few blond kids running around inside, Steve Rogers looking at them with that dopey smile on his face.

"Does this mean he's bonded to me, too?" Bucky asks after a long moment of silence.

"He could be; but he could also not be." Cho shakes her head. "It can be one-sided, sometimes. The only way to know is to ask him. Do you have a way to contact him?" 

He almost gagged at the thought of facing Steve with this new knowledge. "If I break the bond, can it happen again?" 

"Of course you can bond again," She smiles gently, "After some time, though; bond-breaking is taxing on the body, and the mind."

"No, with him." Bucky whispers. "If it's one-sided, and I break it, can we bond again?" 

Cho takes a moment. "It's possible. Unlikely, and not probable, but possible."

"So, no." Bucky nods. 

"Talk to Steve, Bucky." Sharon whispers, "You guys need to deal with this together—"

"I'd like to be alone, please." Bucky announces suddenly, pulling the blankets close to him. "Thank you, Helen. Sharon, would you see Dr. Cho out?"

Sharon tightens her lips and nods. "Of course."

"Please take care of yourself, Bucky." Helen nods at him, but he doesn't reply.

He just pulls the blankets closer, and turns over into the pillows. He doesn't even have a moment to deal with his thoughts—exhaustion hits him, and sleep comes just as quickly. 

Chapter Text


 

A few days passed since Cho's revelation, and Bucky's condition only got worse.

He'd lost a few pounds—a lot of it water-weight that Cho had told Sharon not to be too worried about—making his face look thinner than normal. His hot flashes intensified, to the point that he'd gotten bruises on his chest from leaving ice packs there long enough to rupture blood vessels. He'd begun dropping time more frequently, too ; whole days had passed where he'd laid on the couch and hadn't moved. Sharon grew increasingly more worried, and although she didn't press him into making his decision right away, she did move into the spare bedroom just to be near if he needed her. 

To top it off, he'd tried calling Steve, but had yet to actually talk to him. His assistant promised to let him know Bucky had called—but that was two days ago. It left a bitter taste in his mouth, and set him on the edge of irritated and hostile.

"How's the Danvers account?" Bucky asks, casting his gaze towards the kitchen, where Sharon was cooking something that smelled awfully salty. 

He sees the swish of her blonde hair as she moves around the stovetop, tossing things into a bubbling pot. "It's fine. Clint is working her for a bit more cash, you know how he is." Then, as though she'd remembered their predicament, she murmurs, "But don't worry, he's got it covered."

Bucky grumbles to himself. "He shouldn't be too overbearing. He'll push her away, and she's a good asset to have."

"It'll be fine." Sharon calls. "Don't worry."

Bucky glares towards the kitchen. He had this bad habit of pissing off the few people that cared about him, as soon as the going got rough. He could already see himself saying the wrong thing out of pure frustration, and pushing her away. But he knows he shouldn't; and he wouldn't, because truth be told, she was the only thing keeping him together. So he stayed quiet, when he really just wanted to shout, 'No, it won't be fine; everything's going to shit, Sharon.'

She interrupts his thoughts, appearing in the doorway with a cheery, "You ready to eat?", to which Bucky decides to hold his tongue and only nod in response.

"I'll tell Steve tomorrow." He announced quietly, when Sharon returned with a bowl of soup. "I won't make our date, but I'll tell him."

Sharon frowned at him, and gently revealed, "Honey, I don't think that's a good idea." 

"Why not?"

"Steve called earlier." She doesn't meet his eyes. "He said he wouldn't be able to make dinner tomorrow."

Bucky blinks at her as if she hadn't spoken. "He's blowing me off?"

She nods gently, "Maybe he's still rutting?"

"He's blowing me off." Bucky clenches his teeth, looking down at the soggy noodles. Sharon had tried her best, but she'd hopelessly overcooked the meal. Bucky smiles down at it, "S'okay, Sher. Thank you—for the soup."

"Bucky," She whispers, cupping his cheek.

"S'ok, really." He nods, trying to put on a brave face. "He was—he was too good to be true, anyway." He sighs, setting the soup on the coffee table. "Well. Hard part is over right? Don't have to worry about facing him. Now I've just got to get through breaking this bond."

"Maybe you should still talk to him—"

"No," He dismisses the thought immediately. It hurt to even think about it. "Can I have some wine?"

"No." She frowns quickly.

"Please?"

"No,

"Just a little. One glass?" He begs.

She glares at him, but she also recognizes the defeat in his eyes. Bucky needed to win one battle today, even if it were a superficial one. She hops to her feet and fetches wine glasses, all the while grumbling, "Fine, Bucky. One."


 The following night, Sharon spent the evening at her own apartment. She needed to do laundry, and feed her cat. 

That left Bucky left to his own devices; and Sharon surmised he couldn't possibly get himself into too much trouble from his couch. Which was true; he'd spent the last hour flipping through old movies, and still hadn't settled on one. Finally, he landed on Love, Actually

A knock on the door interrupted Bucky's glare at Andrew Lincoln's face. The knock itself wasn't puzzling, but the type of knock was. Sharon would bang. His sisters would use their spare keys. Clint got himself in by any means possible. This knock though, was a polite, two-tap rap on the hardwood, slowly pulling Bucky to his feet. Approaching, he willed his heart to be still, and forced his mind from wishing it would be Steve. Once he got to the door, he almost didn't open it. He smelled raging cigarettes and asphalt, even though it was still closed.

It swings open under Bucky's grasp, and Brock storms in, already fuming, "Why the hell didn't you tell me you were sick?" 

Bucky narrows his eyes at him, thoroughly confused by the concern coming from the alpha. "What?"

"I called your office. Sharon wasn't there, you weren't there." He huffs, his eyes scouring over Bucky's blanket-swathed body. "Some intern had to tell me you took a few sick days."

"I'm," Bucky frowns, trying to figure out just how he wanted to deal with Brock's sudden concern. Impatience was coming from the alpha in droves, but Bucky could also smell concern, and the strangest twinge of fear. "Yeah, no. I'm not feeling too hot."

"Are you alright? Have you seen a doctor?"

Yeah, not that it was any help, he almost scoffs, but the back of Brock's hand was suddenly probing his forehead and neck.

"You've got a fever." He furrows his eyebrows. "Have you been sleeping? Are you hydrated? You know you don't drink enough water."

"Jesus, when did you turn into Sharon?" Bucky glares. "M'fine." 

Brock gets a bit closer, and Bucky couldn't help but feel a bit calmer; for the longest time—literally a few years now—Brock had been his alpha. Or at least, as close as he came to having an alpha. He felt his body lean towards his, out of pure habit rather than want, and Brock quickly caught him against his chest. 

"Are you sure you're alright?" Brock murmurs, a bit more genuinely than Bucky thought the man was capable of. 

"No," Bucky whispers. "But I'm better now, I think."

Bucky feels him smile into his hair, "Good. You want to lay down?"

Bucky nods against his chest, and allows him to lead him back to his nest on the couch. 

"Why didn't you grab our sheets off of the bed?" Brock whispers, pulling the blankets around Bucky's suddenly shivering frame. "They should still smell like us."

He finds himself spacing out; 'our sheets'should still smell like us'. It sounded so organic, so normal, coming from Brock. But instead of unpacking that, he wonders if it would sound better coming from Steve. On second thought, Steve didn't seem like the type to do all that talking; he'd probably just fetch the sheets himself. 

"Looks like your cleaning lady got to them already." Brock huffs, descending the stairs. Bucky hadn't even seen him walk away. He was too busy imagining Steve there instead, coming down the stairs with the sheets stripped off of their bed. 

"Yeah," Bucky whispers, not even entirely sure what he'd responded to.

"You sure you alright, Buck? You're lookin' at me kinda funny." Brock cocks a suspicious eyebrow.

"M'fine." He whispers, and instinctively reaches a hand out towards Brock's chest. 

They weren't a couple, so they just didn't do a whole lot of intimacy. Sure, they had some fond memories with each other, aside from the time they spent fucking their brains out—but as far as Bucky was concerned, those were moments of dumb luck, where the stars aligned long enough for them to be soft with one another. Those moments were so rare, Bucky could only place one of them—they'd had sex much like they normally did, but instead of them both succumbing to exhaustion, they'd stayed up together, Brock playing in Bucky's hair, Bucky tracing his fingertips over Brock's shoulders. That was almost a year ago; and although their sex lives hadn't changed, it made Bucky wonder what else might have.

Surprisingly, Brock leaned into that outstretched hand, and all but scooped Bucky against him, so they both settled neatly in his little nest. "Y'gotta take better care of yourself, Buck. You work too hard."

Bucky doesn't reply. He just wiggles himself closer to Brock and decides he needed to sleep. The warmth coming from the chest beneath him was enough to help him forget about the cramps plaguing his abdomen, the boss who was probably blowing the second biggest deal of his career, and most importantly, the blue-eyed blond his body wanted more than anything else. Perhaps Brock wasn't just a placeholder of a person, perhaps he was capable of being the sort of alpha Bucky saw himself settled with. He wasn't sure, but tonight was a start. 


 Things with Brock went well. For a while.

Fortunately for Bucky, he hadn't expected Brock to have changed overnight. When he first arrived, it was as though he'd turned into some sickly-sweet version on himself, but as Bucky's heat raged on, the façade fell. It only took two days. Brock's patience was beginning to fail him; he'd snapped once or twice as Bucky grew more needy, then more outright when he couldn't hold his tongue. 

"Do you plan on going back to work before the holidays start?"

That was the first thing Brock had said to Bucky upon getting home from his office. Not hello, not feeling better?, but when will this be over? 

"M'trying." Was all Bucky could offer. And he was trying. Cho had been by earlier that day, to check the progression of his condition. She didn't have much news, but as far as she could tell, it didn't seem like he'd even gotten to the point of withdrawing the bond. His stubborn, stupid, touch-starved, omega body was still holding out, waiting for his alpha to claim him. His alpha; he scoffs at the sappiness of it all.

"Look," Brock sighs, settling in the chair across from Bucky's nest. "I don't mean to be an asshole, but you've got to get your shit together."

"Yeah," Bucky snorts, "I'll be sure to tell my fuckin' immune system."

"That's not—" He snaps, but catches himself and quickly lowers his voice. "Look, I know what this is. This isn't just some cold, and I wish you'd stop pretending it was."

Bucky blinks out at him. No, he doesn't know.

Judging by the flex of his jaw, his lack of response seems to tick off Brock, "You can't even say it, can you? Come on, James, I can fuckin' smell him on you." 

"I—" 

"Does he know?" Brock asks, looking down at his hands. His voice seems less careful now; as though he'd gotten the confirmation he needed to stop tiptoeing around. 

"No." Bucky whispers.

"Good. Then you know what you've got to do, right?" 

"It's not that simple—"

"Yes it is. You've got to get rid of it. He doesn't even know—as far as he knows it was just once." Then, as if it hadn't crossed his mine, he barks, "It was once, right?"

"Yes," Bucky whispers, "Just once,"

"Good." He lets out a relieved sigh. "Then end it. Get rid of it."

"Brock, it's not that easy. There's more to it than just deciding it's over." 

"No, there isn't." Brock barks, getting a bit too animated now. "Look at everything you've built, James. Look at your career, look at your life. Do you really want to let a kid ruin that?"

Bile began to rise in Bucky's throat. It was as though the room were completely silent, yet somehow still too loud for his brain to handle. A kid? He thought—

"I'm—I'm not pregnant, Brock." 

Confusion stained the alpha's features. "Then what the fuck's the matter with you?"

But Bucky was also getting angry now, "And why the fuck do you think I'd just 'get rid' of my baby?"

"Because you aren't stupid. A baby? Before thirty? By yourself? "

"What makes you think I'd be by myself?"

Brock is at his feet in an instant; he hated being challenged, Bucky knew that, but he'd yelled anyway. "Well I don't fuckin' see Steve around, do I? And I sure as shit ain't raising some other man's kid."

Bucky was about to yell; about to scream at Brock for his ignorance, but cramps suddenly attacked his abdomen, and he could only grit his teeth and bite, "Get out."

"Oh, so now you're kicking me out? We can't even talk about this?" Brock drops his hands against his thighs dramatically, "This is just like you. Why don't you ever listen to people? Even when we've got what's best for you in mind?"

"Get out."

Neither of them hear the knocks on the door over their yelling, or maybe Brock did, because his little show seemed to get louder; but Bucky couldn't even see straight, what with the tears clouding his vision. 

"Who's gonna put up with you? Huh?" Brock bites, "What alpha is going to have you? When you fight them on every little thing? When you refuse to listen to them? When you go around and—and fucking cheat on them, right under their fuckin' nose?"

Bucky doesn't know where the strength came from, but he was on his own feet in an instant, the back of his hand having struck Brock's cheek with such force, the sound seemed to echo through the room. At that, the door's locks disengaged, and Bucky heard it swing open; but he didn't look. He kept his eyes on the clear, reddening mark on Brock's cheek. 

"I did not cheat on you, because we are not bonded, and you are not my mate." Bucky says quietly. "Get your things and get the fuck out of my house." 

Neither of them knew where Sharon came from; Bucky couldn't process it any faster than it was happening. In an instant, Sharon had rushed between them, and was yelling something, Steve, it sounded like. No, he was certain; she had shouted "Steve". 

But Bucky didn't have time to process that, either, because Brock's fist, clearly intended to strike him, ended up hitting Sharon instead. 

If Bucky was angry before, there was no word for what he felt now. Everything in his body quickly turned to rage, and he leapt forward to tear Brock's head clean from his body. Something stopped him though, through the tears clouding his vision he couldn't see what, but he could feel it; strong arms had quickly wrapped around his torso, holding him in place. And for good reason too, because Sharon didn't need any help defending herself. She quickly, very quickly, returned the fist.

Bucky isn't sure how many times she hit him; but Brock was bleeding. It was Steve's voice coming from above him, shouting "That's enough!" that made her stop. 

The room is tense, and eerily quiet, besides the huffs coming from everyone in there; but Brock being Brock, couldn't let that last longer than a few moments. "You've got to be kidding me," He huffs, blood dripping down his face now. Sharon had clearly done some damage; her nails probably more than her fists.

"Just walk away," Steve growls over Bucky, "You heard him, get your things and leave."

"Is this what you want?" Brock growls back, gesturing towards Steve. "Him? He left you alone with his baby in your belly, and you're still too stupid to see him for what he is?"

Steve's hands loosen on Bucky's stomach at that. Bucky could smell shock coming from the blond—but he didn't have the mental clarity to deal with that yet. He was still lethally angry at Brock.

"There is no baby!"  Bucky yells, and Steve involuntarily catches him again, before he could reach out to take a swipe at Brock. "Get the fuck out of my house, you dense, dimwitted fuck."

Brock makes to say something again, but Steve interrupts. "Go. Now."

With a huff, he snatches his coat from the back of the sofa. "Well, then, I hope you like them whiny, Rogers."

"You son of a—" Bucky felt the grip loosen from his waist again and saw the flash of Steve rushing after Brock, then heard the sound of fists against flesh, before the slam of the front door under Steve's heavy hands.

"Are you alright?" Bucky is hovering over Sharon, who was suddenly looking less angry than she was a moment ago. "Fuck, I'm so sorry, Sher, I—I didn't think he'd really hit me."

A trickle of blood escapes her nose, but she smiles and just pinches the bridge of it gently. In a nasally voice that in any other context would be hilarious, she beams, "S'alright. I finally got to claw the shit out of his stupid face, so I'm fine."

Part of Bucky wanted to laugh, but his tension was simply running too high to. He pulls her against his chest, "M'sorry. You should have just let him hit me."

"Um, no." She grumbles against him. "Did you want me and Steve to end up in prison?"

Steve, Bucky remembers. He turns around and sees him, looking angrier than Bucky had ever seen him, with his fists still clenched at his sides. His eyes looked almost black, dripping with rage.

He didn't know whether to thank him for handling Brock, or to smack the absolute shit out of him, too. 


 

Chapter Text


Steve's got the harshest look Bucky has ever seen on him; he's normally so affable and easy-going, but Brock could make even the saintliest of nuns snap with his idiocy. His voice is rough and grating as he gestures to the door, "If he comes back, I don't think I can stop myself, Sharon. I'm going to kill him."

"I know," Sharon nods, touching Bucky's shoulder as he inspects her nose again. It didn't seem to be broken, he notices as he pokes the bridge of it gently, just bumped hard enough to bruise for a couple of days. Thank God. Forget Steve, if Brock had really hurt Sharon, he'd be the one to kill the fucker.

"I'm serious." Steve deadpans.

"I know," Sharon repeats, this time more forcibly ending Bucky's inspection, "Go on, tell him, Steve."

Bucky glances up at him, watching his eyes were dart between his and Sharon's, as though he couldn't even process what she was saying. "I—I, um,"

"What the hell are you even doing here?" Bucky asks, his voice low. 

"What the hell am I doing here?" Steve growls out, stalking closer, "What the hell was he doing here?"

"What—this is my house, you know?"

"Yeah, but he's a fuckin—"

"Enough!" Sharon shouts, stepping between them. "I said enough!"

"Why'd you bring him here?" Bucky looks down at her. "I told you I didn't want to see him again."

"I—" Steve whispers, the anger falling from his face immediately, "I needed to talk to you." 

"There's nothing to talk about." He quickly snaps back, pulling the blankets close again. "You should go."

"What?" Both Steve and Sharon shout.

"Seriously?" Steve takes a step closer. "Even—even after that?" Bucky doesn't reply, so he continues, "What—what was he talking about? What baby, Bucky?"

"Oh for fuck's sake," Bucky yells, "There is no baby! You of all people should know that! We didn't have sex, Steve. No sex, no baby!"

"No baby." He repeats, running his hand through his hair. "Okay, okay. No baby."

Bucky loathed just how relieved Steve looked; it made his stomach feel all wobbly again. "You don't have to look so pleased."

"You think that's why I'm pleased?" Steve snaps back, "I'm pleased because Brock hits like the little bitch he is, and so Sharon is alright. I'm pleased that you're safe, and he didn't get a chance to hurt you. But I'm not pleased that you'd think I wouldn't want our kid."

"I should go." Sharon squeaks, but the moment she releases her nose, she begins bleeding again. 

"Get some ice for your nose," Bucky whispers to her, and she quickly patters off to the kitchen. Then, he focuses on Steve again. He's all broad, heaving shoulders, strong arms that had been restraining him not too long ago, and midnight blue eyes. Bucky pulls the blankets tighter. "You didn't return my calls."

Steve's jaw flexes. "No. I didn't, because I thought it was for the best." He scratches his jaw—it looked the slightest bit prickly from where Bucky was standing, "Sammy told me it'd be better to just completely stop; but I can't, Bucky. I can't stop."

"Stop what?" 

"Stop you."

Bucky narrows his eyes at him.

"Thinking about you. Wanting you." Steve says, avoiding Bucky's eyes like they'd burn him if he met them. "They think I started rutting to your heat because I bonded to you, Buck."

"They?"

"Sharon and—and some doctor. It doesn't matter; it's true."

"Steve I—"

"Look, I know. I know, it sounds like bullshit," Steve groans, scrubbing his palm against his eye, "But it makes sense doesn't it? I know, you probably think bonds are some silly, archaic thing, and I'm sorry, but that's what's happened. I came as soon as I found out and—and then I get here, and he's here, trying to hurt you, and now I can't even think straight." 

"Steve, I think—"

"You don't have to say anything—as a matter of fact, I'd prefer if you didn't. I've been thinking about you so much, but I couldn't see you. I've never experienced anything like this, I just—I didn't want to scare you away." Steve rambles, "I didn't mean to upset you, and—and I'm sorry."

"Steve," Bucky interrupts. "I—I bonded to you, too." 

He blinks, as though Bucky was speaking French. "What?"

"An unexpressed bond, or whatever the fuck—I bonded to you, too." Bucky whispers. "I've been trying to break it for a week now."

"Break it?" Steve barks, "You want to break our bond?"

"Well you're the one who kept dodging my calls!" Bucky snaps back, "What was I supposed to do? Just sit around and wait for you to decide that you wanted me? No—no, I've got shit to do, I've got to get back to work, and—"

"I told you that I wanted you." Steve takes a step closer. "Look, I get that this is my fault, but can we stop yelling at each other and just talk?"

Bucky takes a breath to steady himself, feeling the coaxing scent of pine, trying its best to calm him down. This was entirely too much excitement for the day; Bucky wasn't sure he could handle much more of it. His body still ached from sleeping all bent up on the couch, and his face probably reflected that, because Steve was looking at him with so much sympathy that it made Bucky want to strangle him. 

"Talk? What is there to talk about?" 

"This!" Steve gestures between them.

"There is no this!" Bucky snaps, mirroring his gesture. "How can there be a this? We don't even know each other!"

Steve is right up against him now, close enough to scent Bucky, if he wanted to, "We bonded for a reason, Bucky." 

Bucky suddenly felt very conflicted, because being in Steve's arms felt like it would be the warmest, safest place he could ever occupy; but that was his designation talking. He needed to be objective, separated from the needy mess of feelings inside that wanted to curl up against the alpha contently.

"Because we're attracted to each other and biology took the opportunity to fuck us over."

Smoke quickly filled Bucky's nose, "You can't even consider the fact that you might want this, can you?" 

I can, something inside him screamed. "It doesn't make sense," Bucky whispers, "We—we barely know each other."

"Grant." Steve growls. "That's my middle name. I like feisty fuckin' brunets that don't even want to give me a fighting chance."

"I'm serious!" Bucky swats his chest. 

"Fine—we don't know each other well. Does that mean we couldn't try to?" Steve whispers, slowly snaking a hand around Bucky's waist. "Would it be so bad? I promised you I'd woo you."

"You're gonna woo me after we've already bonded?"

"Gotta earn my keep, don't I?"

Bucky considers it. As much as his stubborn brain yelled no and his heart, his designation, and probably even Sharon from the kitchen yelled yes, he still considers it. 

Maybe it wouldn't be too bad; and they would always have the option of breaking the bond. Although, looking up at his giant, soulful eyes, Bucky thinks that option is looking less and less feasible. 

"Fine." Bucky whispers. "We can try. If it doesn't work, though, then it doesn't work; and we break the bond."

Steve flashes him one of those perfect, lopsided smiles of his, before quickly swooping down and kissing him. His lips felt soft and warm; and just like that, Bucky was aroused again. The slightest physical contact set off every nerve ending in his body, and a shiver shook him silly. Steve, probably having smelled that sudden attraction, quickly swipes his hands down Bucky's back, holding him together.

"You guys are probably going to fuck now, so I'm gonna just ice my nose at my place." Sharon calls, from behind them. Bucky has to pull himself away from Steve to glance in her direction, noticing she'd got a bag of frozen snow peas against her nose. 

"M'so sorry, Sher," Bucky whimpers again. "Y'sure you're alright?" 

"Yep," She coos, using the peas to block them out of her peripheral, "Have fun, be safe, murder Rumlow if he comes back." And with a few clicks of her heels and a slam of the door, it was just Bucky and Steve. 

Bucky finally returns his eyes to him. For the first time, he realizes he's seeing him out of a suit. He's got on a pair of black sweat pants, and a thick gray sweater. He's so tall, Bucky thinks, taller than he remembers him being, honestly. Maybe the suits made him seem shorter. And his shoulders, his shoulders looked so fucking wide. His blond hair was cropped short like it always was, the top just long enough to be pushed back with a rogue hand. Bucky couldn't even begin to process what his nose perceived: smoke, pine, lust, heat, anger, fear. It all hung in the air like a neon sign: 'Hi, this alpha is still rutting. Approach at your own risk.'

Bucky thinks he'd like to take that risk. 

His heat had left that familiar pull of need in his gut. He wanted an alpha. He wanted to be held and cared for as his heat progressed; it was in his nature to want those things, but he realizes his mind also wanted those things—not because Steve was an alpha, but because Steve was Steve.

"Steve," Bucky sighs, "Look, I've been a bit mean to you."

"You can be mean, if you need to." Steve growls, "I can take mean."

Bucky's mouth went dry. He thought of the implications—the dozens of sexual implications he just knew Steve meant for him to hear. 

"I—I mean," Bucky wrings his hands together, "If we're going to try this, you'll have to let me know if I'm pushing your buttons. I want to give this a fair shot."

"I promise." 

Bucky doesn't know why that promise felt like it was worth its weight in gold—but he's immediately distracted by the dampness growing in his pants. His body was ready for Steve, even if his pride wasn't.

"Can I kiss you again, James?" Steve murmurs, coming closer. 

Bucky barely has the opportunity to nod before Steve's scooped him up against him, in a soft, pleasant kiss. 

The demure push and pull of their lips, however, quickly turned into something carnal, with Bucky's nails clinging to Steve's shoulders, Steve's hands pulling Bucky's thighs around his hips. 

Bucky was by no means a fresh-faced virgin, nor a virgin of any kind, but the way Steve's hands expertly moved over his frame lit his cheeks up with embarrassment. Normally, he was the one making moves of the sexual kind; he normally knew what it was he wanted, and how quickly he wanted it, but just then? He had no idea what he wanted; all he could do was sit there and wait for Steve do the thinking for him.

He could feel it in his bones—this was not going to be regular sex. Sex-ed in at his private, catholic, high school kept it a little foggy on the biological details, but he knew the important bits. His role as an omega was to submit, something he rarely ever did, in any arena, but most certainly not any sexual ones. The alpha's role, he knew, was to give just as much as he took, and Bucky had no doubt that Steve intended to do just that. 

Steve separates their kiss for just the moment it took him to growl out, "Do you wanna do this, Bucky? I don't want to push you if—if you don't."

Bucky can't talk fast enough, "I do, fuck, I do."

"Oh?" Steve grins against his lips and grabs at Bucky's hips a bit rougher, lowering them both down to his nest. "M'Gonna make this so good for you, Bucky. Y'got no fucking idea."

"Yeah?" Bucky murmurs, and rolls his hips against Steve's. He has no idea where this new-found sex voice came from, but he was grateful it wasn't whiny; because Brock had called him whiny, hadn't he?— "Oh my God,"

Steve had interrupted his thoughts, almost as though he'd felt him overthinking, with a long, smooth swipe of his tongue up the side of his neck, ending it with a little bite to his jaw. "Mhm? Too rough?"

"No," Bucky moans, "That's—that's good." 

And Bucky's moans seemed to be music to Steve's ears, because he made it his mission to hear that beautiful rumble of sound again as soon as possible. Both of his hands slip under the hem of Bucky's t-shirt, swiping up to his chest with ease. There, he rolled his thumbs over his nipples, which did the trick. 

"Oh," Bucky gasped, and slipped his fingers into Steve's hair. "That's—oh,"

"Mhm?" Steve smiles softly, "You like that?" 

Bucky nods, and he knows his cheeks are beet red now, but he was beginning to not care. If Steve was going to make him feel this good without even getting in his pants, then he wasn't going to let his stiff-ass pride block this blessing anymore. 

Steve pulls him close, and kissed a line up the edge of his jaw, "You've got the best fuckin' look on your face when you start feelin' good, you know that?"

"Yeah?" 

"Yeah," Steve finally, finally scents him, dipping his nose into the crook of Bucky's neck and inhaling, before placing an open-mouthed kiss there, too, "You get all flustered, and your lips pop open. S'fuckin' pretty."

Still swiping kisses across his collar, Steve pulls down the last blanket Bucky had draped precariously over his shoulders. Then in one felt swoop, he pulls Bucky's shirt over his head. It was like he literally couldn't wait to touch him, because Steve's hands were on his chest, his neck, and his back before the shirt even hit the ground. 

Bucky wanted to touch Steve, too, so between kisses, he whimpers out, "Off? Please?" tugging on the hem of Steve's sweater. And of course, Steve quickly obliges. 

Bucky takes a long, long look at Steve's chest. It's a broad, pale plane of skin, peppered with soft little freckles; his nipples are tiny rose-colored peaks that made Bucky's vision go spotty. 

"Change your mind?" Steve groans into his neck at his hesitation. "Y'wanna stop?"

"No," Bucky stumbles over the word. "You're—you're just...hand—handsome." He kicks himself mentally. Handsome? The man was hard and rutting under him, and he'd called him handsome?

But always full of surprises, Steve's cock seemed to twitch in his pants at Bucky's innocent little compliment. The scent of woodsmoke accompanied a rumble of a growl, and Steve's hand fists in Bucky's hair, as he takes his lips again, "God, you're fuckin' perfect, Buck,"

With a shift of his hips beneath him, Bucky suddenly was very aware of the size of Steve's erection. He felt like his body would simply combust if it weren't in him, soon. So, he lights the fire.

"Stevie?" He whines into Steve's lips, "Take these off, too?" He palms Steve's bulge through the thick, cottony fabric of his sweats. 

"You tryna get me naked, Barnes?" Steve teases, nipping Bucky's bottom lip.

"Yes," Bucky's impatience shows through. "Take 'em off, please."

"Yessir." Steve grins, shifting Bucky off of his lap for the moment it took him to remove his pants. Black, spandex-y boxer briefs still stand in Bucky's way, though.

He whines, and paws at the band, but refuses to stop kissing Steve long enough to pull them down. Steve however, had begun pulling Bucky's pants off—and his boxers revealed just how aroused he'd gotten. 

"Fuck," Steve murmurs, cupping Bucky's erection through the soft, damp fabric. "You're—"

"Still in heat," Bucky whispers into Steve's neck, "Fuckin' do something about it, alpha."

That seemed to do the trick, because in the very next second, Steve shifted Bucky onto his back with a thud, muffled by the fifty blankets beneath him. His mouth, hot and wet, trailed down Bucky's neck, stopping only momentarily to offer a sweet assault on the nipples he was clearly growing fond of. His hands, however, had quickly slid those wet boxers down Bucky's thighs, and tossed them over his shoulder. Strong palms push his thighs up, spreading him open. 

"You gotta tell me if it's too much," Steve mumbles into Bucky's stomach, "Tell me if you need me to stop,"

"I don't." Bucky whimpers, "For fuck's sake, just touch me, Steve." 

So he does. He growls out a bite on Bucky's hip, and swipes his hand up the length of his erection, letting out a rough, broken moan against Bucky's skin. His fingers fan out, collecting some of the slick, sticky substance Bucky's body was producing for him. Slowly, he slips his middle finger inside him. 

Bucky gasps, "Yes," and claws at Steve's hair.

Bucky wouldn't admit it—but during his heats, he needed a bit more satisfaction than Brock would offer him. So he's invested in a few quality toys. This go around, though, he'd had his first heat as a bonded omega, which meant that his cravings had doubled if not tripled in intensity. Let's just say since Sharon went home, he'd run out of triple-a batteries. Although his solo-sessions hadn't brought much satisfaction at the time, they'd prepared him for this moment perfectly, because Steve manages to fit his pointer finger in, too.

Bucky's other hand reaches down, a feeble attempt to stroke himself, but Steve's hand catches his wrist, "No,"

"No?" 

"No," Steve smiles, and drops a kiss on the inside of his thigh. "You're gonna come all over my fingers, from just my fingers. Sound good?"

"Steve," Bucky wants to bury his face in the pillows—he was flushed again, and not just from the pleasure coming from between his thighs. He didn't want to get off so quickly—but he thinks he may have came right then if Steve had given him those instructions just a moment later. 

"Mhm?" He presses another kiss, closer to where his fingers squelched together. "Look at that," He slips his fingers out, looks down at them, then slips them back in with another little peck, "Fuckin perfect."

"Stevie, I—" Bucky's voice breaks off into a moan.

"Go on, make a mess on my fingers, Buck." He coos, finally lifting his head higher, and drops another kiss right at the base of Bucky's cock. 

And well, he does

Just like their first time in Philadelphia, Bucky had, indeed, made a mess all over his stomach and Steve's fingers. And just like then, Steve hadn't minded in the slightest. He slid himself up against Bucky, to kiss the dopey, sex-stunned look off of his lips, paying no mind to the slick spreading between them. 

"You look so fuckin' pretty when you come." Steve growls out between kisses. "Like there's nothing else in the world besides me and my fucking fingers, huh?"

Good God, if he keeps talking like that, Bucky thinks he'll have to mop him up off of the floor. 

Steve kisses him through the aftershock of the orgasm, but the way his tongue caressed Bucky's made it impossible for the omega not to get all riled up again. This time, he wanted that warm fuzzy post-orgasm feel again, only with Steve's knot still inside him. So he reaches down between them and tears Steve's boxers down the front, which makes the alpha smile against his lips. "M'not goin' anywhere, Buck,"

Steve's smart mouth, though, was at a loss for words when Bucky's palm slid over his cock and took it into his grasp. He dips his head down into the crook of Bucky's neck to hide the gasp on his lips, but Bucky had already seen it, and it gave him the motivation to whisper, "Neither am I, so c'mon, Stevie. Take me."

And that set something off in Steve's alpha brain, because he quickly dipped his own hand down, over Bucky's, and pressed himself against the spot Bucky wanted him the most. "Say it again," He growls. "Say my name,"

"Stevie," Bucky whines, wiggling down against Steve's cock. God, he was so close, just a little shift of his hips and he'd be home. "Please, Stevie."

Steve grunts something Bucky doesn't understand, but whatever it was, he's grateful it came, because Steve slowly began to press himself into Bucky. Bucky holds his breath, welcoming the feeling of his body accommodating Steve's. Once he's got the tip in, Steve groans and gives Bucky a little bite on his shoulder. It seems to stir something submissive deep down inside, because Bucky instinctively tilted his head to the side, offering up his neck to Steve. 

Steve must have also felt something primal, because the groan he let out sounded like it came from an animal, rather than a person. He was exercising a whole lot of self restraint, too, because Bucky knew that everything in his rutting, alpha body was telling him to seal their bond with a mark; and well, Bucky hadn't made it easy for him either, laying there with his thighs spread open and his neck bared for it. 

It went unspoken, just how much they both wanted that mark to take place. Bucky kept quiet because he wasn't quite ready to completely set aside his pride, and Steve because he knew just  how stubborn Bucky was.

And that stubbornness came up again, because just the tip was not enough, so Bucky tried to slip his hips down to get himself a bit more of Steve's length. But Steve's strong palms pinned his hips still, and he grits out, "Wait."

"Why?" 

"You're in heat," Steve says, slipping himself out again. Bucky thinks he could cry, and Steve quickly drops a kiss to his lips to reassure him. "I—I don't have a rubber."

"Upstairs, bed-side table, top drawer." Bucky nods. The word baby was the last thing he wanted to think about. "Hurry."

And he did—Steve sprinted up the stairs, and returned in record time with the little foiled wrapper. He paused, taking in the sight of Bucky, laid out on the couch just as he'd left him, swathed in about a hundred fuckin' blankets. He mumbles, "Y'look good like that, Buck."

But Bucky was beyond impatient now; he reaches up and yanks Steve down against him, and takes the condom between shaky hands. He makes quick work of the wrapper and reaches down to slip it on Steve, eliciting another groan from the alpha. "I want you. Now."

Steve can only give his omega what he wants, can't he? He slips himself into Bucky again, this time offering more of himself than before. "Like that?"

His omega, however, was feeling so fucking good that he couldn't even form words. "Mh—"

"Too much?" Steve grunts stilling himself instantly. 

"No!" Bucky's nails dig into his shoulders. "No, please, more."

"Mhm, more, huh?" Steve grins against Bucky's cheek, "That's it, baby, take it."

It'll sound like the corniest fuckin' thing; but Bucky was literally on cloud nine. Steve's knot felt like the missing jigsaw piece to his body, as if it were made specifically to make his eyes roll into the back of his head.

"Bucky, baby, stay with me," Steve whispers, peppering kisses along his jaw. "M'gonna go a little bit faster. Can you take it?"

"Mhm," Bucky nods, his bottom lip caught between his teeth. He wanted to keep his eyes open; he wanted to see Steve's face when he came, but the pleasure surging through his own body made it impossible to focus on anything.

"Perfect," Steve grunts, and yes, he did start pumping his hips forward faster, making Bucky's entire body move up and down against his. "Just like that, Buck, just like that."

"Oh my God, Stevie!" He mewls, and in an instant, the pleasure bubbled over for Bucky, and he came in hot white stripes allover the two of their stomachs again. 

Steve didn't slow down, though, Bucky watched him chase his own orgasm, and it came almost immediately as he watched Bucky's shake through his body. He came into the condom, but the second he tried to ease his knot out of his omega, Bucky clutched his shoulders, keeping him still, "No, no. Stay."

"Stay?" Steve searched Bucky's eyes for the slightest bit of hesitation. He didn't find it, so he growled, "Okay. I'll stay right here." 

Bucky's palm settles on Steve's cheek, pulling their lips together for a slow, soft kiss. Exhaustion wracked through him like it'd been waiting for him to have his fun before claiming him. Feeling their kiss slow down, Steve pulls back and whispers, "Sleep, baby. Go ahead. M'not going anywhere. I promise."

And so he does—not that he really had much of a choice, he couldn't keep his eyes open any longersettling right against Steve's chest. He was right, that was the single most comfortable spot he'd ever occupied, ever. 

Steve's not sure if it's the cute little satisfied look on Bucky's face, but he also feels the lull of sleep approaching. So he pulls a few blankets over them, wraps his arms around his sleepy omega and lets it happen. Neither of them know what'll be waiting for them in the morning, when the adrenaline wears off and they've got to face the truth in the daylight, but neither of them cared either. Something told them they were where they needed to be, with the person they needed to be with, and that was enough for them to sleep peacefully.


 

Chapter Text

Cool, cold, morning light came through the large casement windows, bathing Bucky's bedroom in a dull blue. He was never a fan of mornings, until Steve came along.

Through sleepy eyes, his focus trails over the snow piling up on the window sill, but lands on Steve, who was quickly becoming one his his favorite things to look at. His alpha was trying his best to move around the room quietly, as to not wake him. Little did Steve know that Bucky was very much awake, and thoroughly enjoying his view. The sheer mass of blankets Steve had chucked onto him made it difficult for Bucky to even see him as he got dressed for work, so he gently pushes them back a bit, to get a better look.

This is a fairytale, Bucky thinks, a fucking fairytale

Steve rolls his shoulders forward, and with sleep-laden limbs, shrugs out of his shirt. Today's suit is hanging near Bucky's closet—a gray one, with a white dress shirt and a burgundy tie. He would look good in it; but honestly, Steve would look good wearing a fucking plastic bag if Bucky were being honest with himself. He just watches appreciatively as the blond fastens his slacks and begins to tie his tie. Those same hands had given his body the same delicate attention he gave the soft silk tie, and just the memory of it made Bucky shiver. The same strong palms that smooth down the front of his shirt, had slipped over Bucky's body in damn near the same fashion, claiming him the way Bucky just knew no one else ever would.

That's right, just looking Steve's hands was enough for Bucky to feel the familiar stir of arousal between his legs.

This was the fifth morning Steve had spent with him, and Bucky still didn't believe he was standing there. But he was—broad shoulders clothed in thick gray fabric, and ruffled blond hair—and he was his

Although Steve was not like other alphas in a great many ways, he was like them in a few. Bucky saw it in the way he carried himself—in the little quirks of his behavior he hadn't noticed or had dismissed before. It was in the way his shoulders dipped back when he stood tall adjusting his suit in the mirror, in the way his arms curled around Bucky's half-asleep frame at night, and for as much as Bucky has despised the cocky alpha presence before, he found himself finding it endearing, now. It was less of a façade now that Bucky had witnessed it firsthand. Now, he saw the forest for the trees; Steve wasn't like the alphas Bucky had experienced before him. 

"Mornin'," Bucky whispers from his place amongst the pillows and blankets all around him. 

"Morning," He turns around and gives Bucky one of those trademark smiles of his. It warms the omega down to his feet. "How'd you sleep?" 

"Mhm, good." Bucky stretches, wiggling his toes somewhere under all the duvets. 

"Good." Steve is beside him in an instant, a warm palm pushing his hair back. "You go back to work today, right?"  

"Yeah," 

"Are you really up for it? You've had a rough couple of weeks. You know, you could always just wait until after the holidays? I know Clint wouldn't mind—"

"I have to, Stevie." Bucky whispers, simply adoring the look of concern on his alpha's face.

"I know, I know."

Steve's palm settles on Bucky's chest, and Bucky gently takes it in his own. "I'll be fine, baby. I promise."

"I know you will." He sighs, "Doesn't mean I don't want to crawl back into bed and make you stay." 

Bucky grins, "If anything is keeping me here, it's that." 

Steve returns the smile, and leans down to kiss him. Bucky was growing better and better at distinguishing Steve's kisses. He's got a few: the soft, pillowy kisses of the early mornings they spent tangled together, the pecks he gave right before he left for work in the mornings, the hot, fast kisses that almost always lead to something more. This is one of Steve's hot kisses, and Bucky doesn't complain at all—except at the fact that Steve had already gotten dressed.

Bucky's hand darts out to Steve's stomach, to keep him from toppling onto him. "You're going to wrinkle your suit."

"Fuck the suit," 

Bucky can't help but grin at that. "Steve, what about work?" 

Steve's hand just slips under the band of Bucky's pajama pants in response, pleasantly greeted by his morning wood. "Y'want me to stop, Buck?"

"No, no." Bucky quickly quips back. "Of course not."

"That's what I thought,"

It was though Bucky's body was an instrument Steve had spent decades learning to play, rather than a week. His fingers left trails of flames on Bucky's skin, making him buck his hips up into Steve's hand. Steve lets his thumb swirl around the tip of Bucky's cock, which sends a violent shiver through his body, but Steve's other hand quickly slips down his back, holding him together. 

The alpha leaves little nips on Bucky's exposed collarbone, peppering the skin there with little pink splotches. "I love it when you shake like that for me, Buck." 

A strangled sound escapes Bucky's lips again, because as if it were as simple as striking a key on a piano to produce a note, Steve's fingers slide up his spine, making his whole body shiver again. 

"Beautiful," Steve growls out, taking that hand up further, grabbing a handful of thick brown hair. His other hand starts moving at an aggravatingly slow pace, up and down Bucky's length. 

Bucky wanted to tease him—it was just in his nature to be defiant—but something inside him stilled, perfectly content with letting Steve play his body. Steve's face is focused on his task, his eyes trained on his fist in Bucky's pants; his lips separated, with that perfect pink tongue settled neatly within. Buck can't help but want to taste it, so he leans forward, slamming their lips together hard.

Bucky can feel the rumble of moans coming from his alpha, but Steve still  wasn't moving fast enough for him. He still wanted to be complacent with his alpha's teasing, though, so he just ruts himself up into Steve's palm some more. Fortunately, Steve takes the hint, and starts stroking him faster. 

"Like that?" Steve questions, rhetorically, because he didn't wait for an answer, instead deciding to begin sucking a bruise onto Bucky's neck.

"Yeah," Bucky groans. It came at him hard and fast—and Steve managed to time things just right, biting down on his neck just as Bucky came in his pants. 

He felt like he couldn't help his eyes focused any more, but Steve quickly proves him wrong. He pushes forward and crashes against Bucky's lips again, one of his hot, fast kisses, bruising and brief. Bucky's word is cut off by it, sounding a whole lot more like Steebie than Steve.

At Bucky's yelp, Steve pulls back, his eyes filled with concern. "What?"

Bucky lets a little nervous laugh out, "Nothin', your—your hand is still in my pants. M'just a little sensitive now, that's all."

"Mhm, m'sorry, baby," He pulls his hand out slowly, but lets it linger near his stomach, which Bucky is grateful for. He's feeling ridiculously selfish—he doesn't even want Steve's hands to leave his body yet. He also really likes when Steve calls him babe, or baby, or literally any pet name. If he didn't know any better, he'd think he was developing a praise kink. 

Maybe it wasn't a praise kink—maybe it was just a Steve kink. 

Confirming his suspicions, Steve hums into his neck, "Fine, go to work, but don't drive. The roads are probably still icy." 

"Mhm, okay."

"M'serious," He pushes himself up off of Bucky's body, and he immediately misses the warmth; but Steve knew him well enough, quickly covering his omega with a pile of blankets, for the second time this morning. "Don't drive to work. Have Stan come get you." 

"I will." 

"Bucky," 

"I will!" He grins, "You're acting like I don't listen to you, Steve."

"You don't listen to anyone."

Bucky pouts, "That's not fair,"

"Except maybe Sharon." He complains, mainly to himself, though both of them knew it to be true. "What'd'ya want for dinner tonight? Italian?"

"Mhm, Italian is fine." He mumbles, pulling the sheets tighter. "You're going to be late."

Steve glances at his watch—Bucky does, too; a white, pearl-faced, silver Rolex—and groans, "Fuck. Yeah, I've got to go." He leans forward and kisses him again; one of his quick, parting kisses, "Don't work too hard."

"No promises," He sighs, but Steve quickly nips at his lip, so he snickers and adds, "Okay, okay, I won't." 

 


 

 “You’re looking good, kid.”

Bucky meets Stan’s eyes in the rearview mirror. He’s got his sunglasses on, even though it’s overcast and snowy out. Bucky can still see the smile reaching his eyes, though. A kind, reoccurring smile had left lines on either side of his mouth, and it makes Bucky feel a bit warm inside.

It was true, too. The last time Stan had seen Bucky, he’d been a mess. Stressed out of his fucking mind, running around his office trying to deny that his heat was starting two months early.  He remembers seeing his reflection then—sunken eyes and sickly, pale skin. He’s surprised that no one had called an ambulance for him.

“Thanks. I’m feeling good, Stan.”  Bucky nods, looking out the window. “Drop me out front?”

“O’Course,”

Barton & Barnes hadn’t changed a bit in his absence. It still had the same dopey valet up front. The same smiley receptionist at her desk. The same ping of the elevator when it’s called. He hadn’t expected it all to fall apart while he was gone, but he also didn’t think it would run so smoothly. A pang of something suspiciously close to fear went through his gut, but he stepped out of the elevator with his best foot forward.

"I swear to God, if you kids don't get off your asses, I'm going to hurt you. All of you." Bucky hears Sharon's voice coming from further in the building. "Let's go! Move it, He's almost here." 

Interns dashed down the halls holding handfuls, banker boxes, and briefcases filled with hundreds of papers. They all looked terrified—most likely of Sharon, and rightfully so—but a few of them recognized him and looked even more frightened. The others hadn't looked up from their tasks long enough to identify him; they just kept their heads down and trudged their respective files out of the conference room. 

Sharon is packing up what seems to be the last of it into her own leather portfolio. She's got her back to the door, so she doesn't see him coming.

"What's going on here?" Bucky asks gently.

Sharon jumps, but with a toss of long blond hair, she turns to greet him, “Welcome  back, Bug!” She hops to her feet and takes about a billion quick, tiny steps to greet him. 

“Thanks, Sher,” He murmurs into her hair. She smells like lavender and pen ink—like she usually does—but in a weird, nostalgic way, she smells like some version of home. "Why are you threatening the paralegals?"

"Because," She huffs, "They've been working in here since you've been gone. I wanted it cleaned up before you got here."

He grins, "So you screamed at our interns?"

"Yes?" She furrows her eyebrows. "Is there any other way to get things done around here?"

"Hm," He mumbles, running a hand against the long pine table, "I missed this."

"I know you did, Bug."

He clasps his hands together, "So what's first? How're the big accounts doing? Where's Clint on Danvers?"

“Well first, come with me,” She bubbles, taking his hand and yanking him towards his office.

Through the glass walls, he can already see what she was so excited about. An entirely too-large bouquet of red roses  is sat squarely in the middle of his desk.  They’re densely packed together, at least fifty of them, with a little white card attached.

He doesn’t need to pick it up to know who its from.

Happy first day back on the job, Buck. Knock ‘em dead. -Your Stevie.

It put the warmest of smiles on his face. His Stevie. When did he even have time to do this? Sharon, however, interrupts his thoughts—she was squealing like a teapot.

“He’s cute, isn’t he?” Bucky smiles at her.

“So fucking cute!” She almost shouts. “He knew you’d like roses, just like he knew you'd like wine. I didn’t even have to tell him, Buck! I mean, of course he double-checked with me, but he knew.”

“I never thought I’d approve of my boyfriend being friends with you.” He teases.

“Hey!” She pouts, “Let’s not forget who played millionaire matchmaker to set you motherfuckers up in the first place. If it weren’t for me, you two would still be making eyes at each other across a conference table.”

“Yes,” He takes her cheeks in his hands and pops a kiss on her forehead, “Thank you, Sher. A thousand times, thank you.”

"Mhm, sure."

"Where do we start? Hm?" He turns, pointing to his desk. "You've done a wonderful job since I've been gone, by the way. Thank you." 

“You’re welcome,” She glares, more at the hickey he knew was blooming on his neck, than at his face. "We’ve been drowning in new cases since you've been gone. Everyone in the district wants a piece of you, boy wonder. I stole all of the interns in the building just to keep our heads above water.”

He felt a wave of excitement up of his spine. With his heat subsided, his bond sufficiently satisfied, and the scent of his boyfriend’s roses wafting through the air, he was ready to get back to work.


He hopped right back into the groove like he'd been gone a few minutes, rather than a few weeks. In a matter of a few hours, he'd knocked almost everything off of Sharon's to-do list, and everything off of his own. The interns did their fair share of the grunt work, but Bucky had no qualms with pushing up his sleeves and archiving alongside them. 

Clint interrupted him and a few paralegals in his archive room. "What the hell are you doing back so soon?"

"Soon?" Though the interns all flinched, Bucky doesn't even lift his gaze from the casebook; he was used to Clint popping up out of nowhere. "I've been gone almost three weeks now." 

"Oi, kiddos," Clint chirps, and the interns all mark their pages and excuse themselves.

"Oh, c'mon Clint, we were making headway!" Bucky groans, "I had to wrangle all those kids from the 15th floor." 

"I'm sure Scott will be grateful for half of his staff back, then." He says, passively looking at the spine of one of the books on the table. "Besides, Sharon told me you've already caught up on everything you missed." 

"Yeah, and? It's called momentum, Barton. If you're going at a good clip, why stop?" Bucky says, flipping his page. He hears Clint sigh behind him. 

A long arm reaches over his shoulder and shuts the binder he was reading from. Finally, Bucky acknowledges him with a glare. He's wearing an obnoxiously bright red Santa hat.  

"When I asked 'what the hell are you doing back so soon', I meant 'why are you at home with your bonded, Bucky?'." 

Bucky cocks an eyebrow. "Well, I was working. Y'know, doing stuff to pay my bills? You should try it some time."

Clint snorts at him. "C'mon, kid. After Stark's deal? You could come into work and play Galaga at your desk for the rest of career, if you wanted to."

"Galaga?" Bucky almost wheezes, "Jesus, Barton. That game is like thirty years old." 

"You know what I mean." He smacks Bucky's shoulder and points a slender finger at him, "Don't change the subject. I told you I didn't need you here until we all get back in January."

"Well, I'm here." Bucky smiles, "Y'gonna send me home, boss?" 

"I ought to." He scoffs, "'Tis the fuckin' season, Buck. You should be curled up with your blondie, not pouring over old cases."

A grin threatens to emerge, I've been curled up with that blondie, thank you very much. "We break for Christmas in a few days, don't we?"

"Tomorrow. You could be spending today with your bondmate." Clint sings. "Anyhow. I won't push you."

"You wont?" His eyebrow goes up, "Clint Barton, respecting boundaries? This is new! Has Laura begun threatening you?"

The corners of Clint's lips quirk up at the mention of his wife. "No, I just know you, kid. Better than you think I do. That pride of yours just needs a little space, doesn't it? And where else does it thrive as much as the building with your fuckin' name across the front?"

Bucky scoffs, "I resent that," and rolls his eyes. "Maybe I just wanted to see your ugly mug. You think of that?" 

"Oh, as much as I'd like to make this about me, we're talking about you, Bucky-boy." Clint coos, settling across the table from him. "Go on, spill. Sharon wouldn't tell me, but it's alright, I'd much rather hear it from you." 

Bucky laughs at him—he looks like a teenage girl with his chin propped up in his hands, ready to gossip. 

"How have you adjusted to being bonded?" He pouts, "You're the most stubborn power-bottom I know, so I'm just checking in—is that ego of yours still in tact after getting your mark?"

"How very kind of you, but," Bucky grins, "I didn't let him mark me."

"What? But Sharon said he moved in?"

"He did, but I didn't let him mark me, yet." He shrugs, "Better to wait, I think."

Clint returns his smile. "That must be driving blondie insane. You can't help but stir the pot, huh?"

Bucky shrugs again, smiling like the lovesick idiot he's become. "His pot? Of course not."

"Indulge me," Clint whines.

"No, buddy. I've given you enough." 

"Please?"

"Absolutely not."

"Fine." Clint rises, wagging his finger again, "I'll have to warn that idiot. You've got him around your little finger, and the poor fucker doesn't even seem to mind it." 

"He likes it, I like it." Bucky wags his eyebrows at him, watching him cart towards the door. 

"Don't work too fuckin' hard, Bucky." Clint calls over his shoulder, "You'll spoil your holiday." 


Bucky had Stan drive him home, too. Steve had become increasingly more worried about Bucky driving as the winter got worse, what with how many black ice accidents had been occurring. So, much to his demise, Bucky followed Steve's order and left his beloved BMW at home, electing to have Stan take him to and from work.

His apartment used to be a safe haven of sorts—a shell for him to retreat into at the end of the day, where there was wine, old movies, and takeout. As he thought about it, the memory of what his house used to be was almost haunting—a casement for him to hide from the raging world outside. 

However, as he approached it tonight, he considers just how it'd flipped in just a matter of a week. 

He was accustomed to approaching the home, completely dark inside, and having to click on every light as he walked through. Tonight, warm light came through the curtained windows, poured through the front door as he cracked it open, and bathed him as he stepped into the foyer. The soft pitter-patter of paws on the hardwood fills his ears, and the giant ball of golden fur appears at his feet. 

Daisy, Steve's golden retriever, had become especially fond of Bucky. Especially when she got to welcome him home. 

"Hi there, pretty girl," Bucky coos, dropping down to pet her. 

The scent of something warm and familiar fills his nose—and not just pine, which had seamlessly integrated itself into Bucky's space—tomatoes, basil, and olive oil. Steve had gotten to making a mess in the kitchen again.

"Hey, sunshine." Steve calls from in front of the stove, "M'makin' spaghetti tonight. Is that cool with you?" 

"Hey." Bucky can't help the dopey smile that covers him. He shrugs out of his jacket and settles at the island. "Of course."

Daisy circled around his feet, gazing up at him with the biggest, chocolatey-brown eyes.The domesticity of it all felt overwhelmingly sweet, like that gummy feeling of licorice between your teeth as a kid. It made him feel all bubbly inside. He feels Daisy's wet nose against his thin socks. 

Steve's wearing a white henley, which Bucky thinks might be the most gorgeous piece of fabric he's ever put onto his body. It clings to his shoulders in a way that made Bucky want to peel him out of it. Steve, however, is oblivious to Bucky's loaded glances, instead rather intensely focused on his marinara sauce.

"How was it? Being back, I mean." Steve asks, setting his spoon to the side. 

"Felt good." Bucky hums, "Sharon may have been abusing the interns in my absence, though."

Steve chuckles, a burst of sound that makes Bucky smile. "Sounds like Sharon."

"Does, doesn't it?" He hums again. "Missed you, though." 

"Yeah?" Steve grins. He's returned his glance to the pot, but Bucky can hear it in his voice. "You been staring off, thinkin' about me?" 

"Once or twice," Bucky grumbles, then hops down from the barstool and teeters up behind Steve. He drops a little kiss on his clothed shoulder. "Need help?"

"I'm pretty much done here. Just waiting on the sauce to simmer a bit more." 

"Smells really fuckin' good, Stevie." Bucky dips forward to catch a glimpse of a bay leaf settled atop of the bubbling sauce. 

"Mhm? Family recipe." Steve beams. "If I haven't fucked it up."

"You haven't" Bucky takes another sniff, ""Speaking of family, I talked to Becca." 

"Really?" His face lights up, and well, Bucky couldn't be upset with him if he wanted to. Steve wanted to meet his sisters. And his parents. 

Part of the omega knew that this was just Steve's own designation needing him to posture a little bit to earn his mate; and normally, Bucky would be into that. He wasn't afraid of what Steve would do, he was terrified of what his family would do. His sisters, meh, they'd probably pull out old pictures and tell Steve that he used to wet the bed as a kid. His parents, though—well, all bets were off when it came to Winnifred and George Barnes. 

"She agreed." He gives Steve a little smile, "If things go south with my parents, we can stay with her." 

"That's great!" Steve booms, taking Bucky into a bear hug, "Told you, you're being silly. Nothing is going to happen with your parents."

"You don't know that," Bucky whispers, grateful that his fear could go unspoken and Steve would still feel it. He begins rubbing little circles on Bucky's back. "They can be pretty shitty."

"Everyone can be a bit shitty." 

"No, they're pretty shitty." He whines, "I just want us to have a nice first Christmas together, and I can feel it; they're going to fuck this up for us."

"No they aren't." Steve insists, holding Bucky a bit tighter. It was hard for Buck to admit things like that—so he hoards the rarity like it's gold, and does his best to comfort him. "No one's going to ruin anything, okay? It's me and you, remember? 'Til the end of the line."

Bucky almost snorts at him.

That was a bad joke he'd made a few days ago. Steve had asked Bucky, not to pressure him, just inquisitively, how long he would need before he'd be open to a mark. He'd bargained with his alpha—a mark would come when he was certain he was ready for one. That didn't mean he didn't trust Steve, or that he had one foot out the door already; it was just Bucky being Bucky and needing a contingency plan for his contingency plans. He was with him, his alpha, loyally, 'til the end of the line; whether that end was in a few months, or the end of their lives.

It was a strange situation they'd found themselves in, loving someone so suddenly and so strongly, without either of them even realizing what was happening until it had happened, but when Bucky said he meant to give this an honest chance, he'd meant it.

"Can I say—I am really fucking excited to meet your sisters." Steve almost squeals. 

Bucky's eyes roll without his permission, "Oh God." 

Steve and Bucky's sisters were going to get along swimmingly, Bucky just knew it. They were effectively the same brand of person: happy-go-lucky alphas, with big beaming smiles and giant blue eyes. He could picture it; the three of them,  gesturing widely, just absolutely dominating the game of charades his mother would make them play.

"Your family makes you all blushy, you know that?" Steve teases, but his voice dips down low, and he cards a hand through his hair.

"Because they're insufferable." He grumbles back, "But you'll learn that soon enough."

"Everyone gets a little tired of their folks now and again. Mine will embarrass me, too."

"Steve," Bucky pauses, his eyebrows knitting together,  "Your mom is a ray of sunshine. Literally the sun in the sky. She's precious."

"Yeah, to you." He grumbles, which Bucky finds sickeningly endearing. "Y'think she's ever sent me cookies? No, but she hears I'm bringing someone home and she's already got them in the oven."

Bucky couldn't smile any wider. He really wanted to meet Sarah Rogers. He knew she was the sun, moon and the stars in Steve's eyes, and he couldn't help but want to witness that firsthand. Steve spoke about his mother with a sort of reverence Bucky had never seen before; a respectful tone, always laced with pride. He just knew that Steve would talk about him like that too, someday. 

Steve's eyes dip down over Bucky's frame, taking in the suit he was wearing. He'd picked his blue one—wanting to look good for his first day back at the office. Steve, apparently, thought he looked good in blue, too.

His voice drops low again, and he breathes out, "Y'look really fuckin' good in this suit, you know that?" 

Just like his kisses, Bucky was getting familiar with Steve's different voices too. He was fond of them all, but this one was veering close to his favorite—Steve's alpha tone. He'd always thought that the alpha voice was bullshit, some urban myth made up to make omegas surrender even more of themselves; but it was real—and Bucky would turn to fucking goo whenever Steve dropped his voice down low and told him what to. Whether it was is designation making him susceptible to an alpha's commands, or he was just that into Steve, Bucky found himself hoping Steve would do it again.  

"You like it?" Bucky smiles softly. "Sharon got it for me a few years back." 

"Yeah, I like it." He hums, pulling at the tie.

"Yeah?"

"Mhm,"

"Because it almost seems like you're taking it off of me." 

"Mhm," Steve furrows his eyebrows, like it's the most obvious thing in the world, and he wasn't just trying to get his omega naked, "Of course. Red sauce? You could stain it." The tie comes undone in his hands, and he tosses it to the island. 

"Really?" Bucky laughs, watching Steve's hands slip down to undo his belt, "Oh, so my pants, too?" 

"They're nice pants." Steve shrugs, and dips down for a kiss. 

"What about your sauce?" 

"Told you, it needs to simmer." He hums, and quickly yanks Bucky's legs around his hips. He takes a few steady steps forward and sets him on the island. "We've got time."

This time, Bucky lets him kiss him. It's soft and sweet at first—longer than they're normally capable of—until Steve pulls Bucky's shirt out of his pants, and is too impatient to handle the buttons, so he tears it down the front. Bucky would typically make a crack about him liking the suit enough to ruin it, but something about the sound of the fabric tearing, and the gruff grunts coming from his alpha preoccupied him with a moan.

Steve runs his hands up Bucky's chest, pausing at his favorite bit of Bucky's body—his nipples. Good God, Steve loved teasing Bucky's nipples; and Bucky was definitely a fan of it, too. Even if he squirmed and writhed—it was only because he wasn't used to getting that much pleasure without some sort of friction on his cock. 

"Mhm, you gonna whine for me, Buck?" Steve hums, pressing his nose against Bucky's sternum. 

Slowly but surely, his face slid right where Bucky wanted it, hovering over the sensitive bud. Bucky quickly slipped his fingers into his hair, something he learned Steve was a sucker for. The blond quickly compensates the attention with a beautiful assault on Bucky's nipple. His tongue laves over it gently, and his his lips quickly close around it with a hot, wet sound that makes Bucky gasp. 

Steve is holding onto Bucky with the most paradoxical grasp—hard and dominating, holding him place and offering him no room to wiggle away from his mouth, but somehow still delicate enough that Bucky can feel the ridges of his fingerprints against his sensitive skin. Their bond had them so in-tune that Bucky didn't even need to tell Steve what he wanted next—he had smelled his scent and knew it immediately. Steve's palm just rakes up Bucky's collar, and his fingers splay the curve of Bucky's throat. Not choking him, not hurting him in any way—just settled there, holding him still and wordlessly declaring that Steve was the one in charge here. 

And Bucky, for the first time after Steve having done it countless times in their week together, found himself totally at peace with the thought. His body, his pleasure, and his love belong to Steve Rogers. He trusts him enough to say that to himself now. He can only acknowledge this newfound submission with a fluttery groan that makes Steve twitch in his pants.

Although it makes Steve very excited, it happens to startle Daisy, who starts barking. 

Daisy's a full-grown lab—so she was loud. Bucky even likened to her bark to thunder; and her frightened bark seemed to be much louder than her oh-my-god-you're-home! bark. It took a great deal of strength, but Bucky finally tears his eyes away from Steve long enough to look down at the pup. Her tail is straight up in the air, her teeth bared, and oddly enough, she wasn't focused on Bucky, the strange new man she's barely known for a week; no, she's snarling at Steve.

Steve just presses his face into Bucky's chest with a little laugh, before turning to her. "Daisy, honey, I'm not hurting him." 

The giant dog simply takes a step closer and barks again. 

"Look, see," Steve untwines his arms from around Bucky, showing them to her. "Not even touching him anymore." 

"Daisy? It's alright," Bucky blinks at her. Her ears immediately go down, and her tongue lolls out, friendly as ever. She shakes herself off a little, then walks over to Bucky's feet dangling off of the counter, and sits on the floor between them, effectively blocking Steve's path to his omega. 

Steve looks out at the whole ordeal with a stunned, dopey look on his face. "Even my fuckin' dog is fallin' for you, Buck."

Bucky grins, and reaches down to scratch her ears; she likes that, so much so, her tongue lolls out of her mouth again, sticking out on the side comically. "Oh, honey. Daddy's being silly, don't you think?" Almost as if to agree, she tilts her head to the side. 

"Daddy?" Steve groans, then points an accusing finger at the golden ball of fur, "She's going in her crate tonight, so I can finally do something about you throwing that name around so lightly."

Grumbling all the while, Steve returns to his pot. Bucky couldn't stop smiling. This—this domesticity—wasn't something he was accustomed to, but was quickly beginning to love. Steve had grown up just like this, with two happily-married parents, and jolly siblings who probably never even fought, and a fucking dog— he grew up surrounded by love, and it shows. Bucky didn't know that kind of childhood. His paled in comparison, a ghastly white to the warmth of Steve's. His family was cold, and empty and loaded with sarcasm to take up the space that love and comfort should be occupying. But there was no use sulking—he'd already made his peace with his parents. They wouldn't change. He just hopes they don't scare Steve away.

He looks over at him, at his crop of glinting blond hair, and at Daisy, with her droopy pink tongue, and thinks to himself that maybe, just maybe, this life of warm smiles and homemade pasta, as unfamiliar as it was, was one he could enjoy. 

Chapter Text


Fancasts:

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When they'd set out for the Hamptons, Steve really only had one goal— to keep Bucky level-headed and happy, so he could enjoy the holiday with his family. Before they'd even left Brooklyn, he could feel the discomfort radiating off of his omega. He watched his lover's shoulders bunch up with tension, and his lips curl into a scowl whenever he glanced at the GPS directing them to his family's holiday home. Steve just knew there wasn't anything he could do to stop him from worrying, but he still tried. A brush of his hand here, a pat on his knee there. Little touches that were more for him than for Bucky. He knew it was in vain, but he needed to feel like he was helping, lest he explode from sheer nervousness.

See, he was feeling nervous about seeing Bucky's family, too. He knew just how important first impressions were, and he really didn't want to fuck things up. It was a strange feeling, and completely out of character for him. Normally, he could walk into any room and easily entertain; but although he'd managed to hide how much it freaked him out from Bucky, he still felt the jittering in his hands.

From the moment they’d gotten off of the freeway, Steve knew he was out of his element. He'd known Bucky’s folks were wealthy—not rich, but wealthy, the sort of money that was so excessive that it would trickle down for generations without running dry— but the houses in the area just confirmed it. It wasn't a block, like he's accustomed to seeing; it wasn't even a street, like the homes in Westchester. There were whole acres on each property, with long winding drives and giant oak trees and orchards. They were near Tony Stark's summer home, too, which only serves to make his head fuzzy. There were different types of wealth in New York—average wealth, and Tony fuckin' Stark-level wealth

Bucky said he'd grown up in Brooklyn. They both had, but clearly they’d lived different lives, even if they lived them on damn near the same street. And slowly, it began to make sense. Bucky had lived in Brooklyn because it was near his father's Midtown offices. Their place in Brooklyn wasn't a home, it was just a convenience for his parents—just a place for he and his siblings to be close enough to their jobs. The idea of it all made Steve's heart heavy, and a glance at Bucky only made it sink more.

His omega is clutching the edge of his leather seat so hard, Steve thinks it's only moments away from tearing. So, he reaches out and slips their fingers together. He clears his throat and tries to soothe him.

"So, you spent your summers out here? That must have been fun."

"Yeah, fun." Bucky whispers, then, chewing his lip, "Look, you can say it, Stevie. I know you're thinking it."

Steve holds his breath. "Thinkin' what? M'not thinkin' anything."

"Yes, you are, you're lookin' at the neighborhood and wondering just what the fuck you've gotten yourself into." 

Yes, exactly that. He lifts Bucky's hand to his lips and kisses it. "No, not at all." 

Bucky looks at him with a scowl, completely disbelieving. 

"Okay, maybe just a little." 

He groans, and catches his face in his palms. "We don't have to go, you know? We can turn around. I can promise you, it only goes downhill from here." 

"It'll be fine," Steve whispers, trying to focus on the oak tree-lined street. "I just—I didn't expect all this."

"Are you sure?" 

"Yes!" 

"Okay." Bucky settles down again, peering through the window. He smells calmer now, even though he was still on-edge. He was as calm as he would be getting today, Steve was certain. But being Steve, he couldn't pass up the opportunity to fuck with his omega again.

He elbows him lightly. "So, what should I expect? Gilded railings on the stairs? Diamond door-handles?" 

"Steve." 

"M'kidding, Buck." He chuckles, "Maybe just silver on the stairs?" 

Bucky turns to face him, an adorable glare on his face. "We're turning around." 

"C'mon," Steve laughs harder now, "M'just teasing you. I can't tease you?" 

Bucky makes an annoyed groaning sound and drops his head against the headrest. "They're going to make this difficult enough, Steve. I don't want you to feel uncomfortable going in, because I'm positive they'll only make you feel worse."

"Buck." Steve makes his voice stern. "There isn't anything your family can do to make me walk away from you. You know that, right?" 

"Yes," 

"And you know that we're in this together, right? 'Til the end of the line?"

"Yes," He whines.

"Then you know that we'll be fine, regardless of what happens this week." Steve takes his hand again. "Promise me you'll give this a chance to work out. Don't go in expecting the worse." 

Bucky chews his bottom lip, but nods, "Okay." 

 


 

Steve had definitely been joking about there being gold fixings on the staircases, but when they turned down the drive, he wasn't so certain that there wouldn't be.  

The house was gorgeous. Gigantic, but somehow still not gaudy. The design was definitely like the Hampton-y homes Steve had vague memories of seeing in magazines. He didn’t have the right words to describe its details, but he had a general idea of the concepts; he thought that coastal, ranch-like, and expensive were pretty damn good descriptions.

So he kept a little smile on his face and carried their things behind Bucky, who walked in front of him up the stone path to the front door. It’s a giant set of white french doors, with frosted glass panels on either side. Bucky reaches forward and pushes the doorbell; but it doesn’t even start ringing before the door swings open.

Steve hears her before he sees her. It's a beautiful, sing-songy voice that makes him shiver. “Bug!”, she tackles him in a bear hug, her long arms wrapping around Bucky’s shoulders tightly, and the two of them stagger backwards.

Sabrina Barnes, Steve realizes, Bucky's younger sister, the Barnes' middle child. He can tell from Bucky's ominously vague description of his sisters that this was one his favorite. He'd said she was awfully smiley growing up, and even though she'd presented alpha, it never quite left her. She's a sprite of a person, barely reaching Bucky's eye-line in height.

Bucky whines through her hair, “Sab, you’re going to dislocate my fuckin’ shoulder again.", and she lets go just as quickly.

When she pulls away, Steve gets a good look at her—and by God, the resemblance is uncanny. It wasn't exactly a complete a copy-paste of Bucky's face on her body, but Steve could see it, definitely. Her hair is long, tumbling past her shoulders in perfect, chocolate, curling-iron sized curls—the same shape and color of Bucky's. Her eyes are the same steel-blue, and just as wide as his, too. Her lashes, thick chocolate spikes, were impossibly long and prominent—and her jaw was sharp, not strangely so, just strong enough for him to take notice. 

Shit, sorry! I just haven’t seen you in—well, in forever!”

Bucky makes a face, but with how testy he gets around his family, Steve isn’t sure if she’s exaggerating or not. Bucky reaches back, and takes Steve’s hand gently.

“Sab, this is Steve. Stevie, this is my little sister, Sabrina.”

Steve extends his other hand immediately, but Sabrina slips her hands around him for a hug. “Oh c’mon, Steve, you’re bonded to my brother. We aren't shakin' hands.” She smells a bit like Bucky, having that warm, fresh cotton scent, with a bit of strong dark chocolate over it. 

"It's nice to meet you," Steve says gently.

"It's nice to meet you too!" Sabrina giggles, then shouts over her shoulder, "Becca! Bug and his boyfriend are here."

Steve felt a swell of pride at hearing Sabrina call him Bucky's boyfriend, but it's short-lived. When they step into the foyer, he has to hold his breath to keep himself from speaking too quickly. The house looked much bigger from the inside. Off to the right, there was a giant living space, with furniture that hardly looked lived in, complete with a full-size, grand piano. Off to the left, there was a full twelve-seat, white oak dining table. Directly ahead, there was a double staircase, and through the center of them, Steve could see straight through to the back yard. The entire back wall of the house seemed to be glass, and through it he could see a large, stone-tiled outdoor area, complete with a pool; and beyond that, there seemed to be a lake, on which Steve could see no other houses. 

He felt the air leave his lungs. Marble floors. A pool. A lake—a private lake. He was used to seeing wealth—he worked in the NYFD for God's sake, but this was different. These people were loaded

"Holy shit, he lives." A new voice offers, and Steve turns in time to see Bucky get engulfed in another hug. His other sister, Becca, had come from somewhere off the dining room, with a long-stemmed glass of dark, red wine. 

Rebecca Barnes looked like both of her siblings, and somehow still not like either of them. Steve couldn't explain it—she was a bit taller than Sabrina, a bit thinner, too. Her hair was cropped just above her shoulders, but still in the same loose curls like her siblings'. Her brows were more like Bucky's—where Sab had perfectly arched brows, and Bucky had a bit of an arch, Rebecca's brows were straight, dark slashes, that made her face look sharp and alluring. She's got a sultry, nonchalant vibe to her; and Steve sees what Bucky meant by Becca being the eldest by choice rather and by birth order. She carries herself with the surety of someone twenty years older than her. 

"Woah, don't spill my shit," she hums, moving her glass just in time to prevent Sabrina from bumping into it. She looks up at Steve, but he only sees Bucky's blue eyes staring back at him. "Hey there handsome, you must be Mr. Bondmate." 

"Steve Rogers," He smiles, and offers his hand. She simply looks down at it, and brings her glass to her lips. 

"I know who you are." She says over its brim.

"Becca." Another voice calls from further in the house, "That's no way to treat family."

Steve feels embarrassment coming from his omega beside him. Becca smiles softly behind her glass, and says to him, "You didn't say he was blond, Bug. Or that tall." 

"Why are you like this?" Bucky asks, but he doesn't sound distressed. A little embarrassed, maybe, but definitely also a bit amused.

"Like what?" Becca frowns, "Oh come on, he's a big boy, he can take a little hit, don't you think? You can par with me, right, Rogers?"

"Of course." He smiles. "Unfortunately, I am very blond. And also fairly tall."

That gains a grin from the youngest Barnes sister, and she offers her hand.  "Alright then, fairly tall, very blond Steve. Pleasure to meet you."

"Trust me, the pleasure is all mine." 

Charming them by normal means was clearly out of the picture. Now, he needed to impress them; and to do that, he needed to prove he could keep up with this insanely beautiful, insanely wealthy, and insanely cunning family. He knew Bucky would never admit it, but he felt it from his omega; his sisters' approval made him swarm with pride, and if he could keep doing that, then they'd make it through the holiday weekend without a hitch. 

The third voice appears closer, "Could it be? My boy comes home and doesn't greet his mother?"

Steve pauses. Bucky's mother, Winnifred Barnes, looked nothing like her children. He could see the slight resemblance between Sabrina and their mother—but the other two Barnes children shared virtually none of her features. Her hair was red—a dark auburn red, but definitely red—and she has a warm, welcoming, round face; nothing like the heads of dark sable hair and sharp jawlines around them.

"Hi, mom." Bucky whispers, and she pulls him down into a hug. This hug was unlike his sisters' hugs, though. It's shallow and quick, a subtle greeting rather than a grateful one. She pulls away and touches the side of his neck.

"You cut yourself shaving. Be more careful, Jamie." 

"Yes, Ma'am." 

And just like that; Steve can tell that Winnifred was going to be the biggest challenge thus far. She was a walking contradiction; such a warm, welcoming look to her, but  her words were sharp and could cut down just about anyone, Steve was certain. 

"Go on," She gestures towards Steve, "Tell me all about this elusive Steve, darling." 

"Mom, this is my bondmate, Steve Rogers." Bucky says quietly, allowing him to step forward and take his mother's hand. 

She looks him up and down with clear, unbridled scrutiny, but when she settles on his face, she smiles, apparently not having found anything wrong with him, yet. "Hello, Steve." 

"Mrs. Barnes." Steve whispers. He can't help but want to size her up, too. He didn't like the way she'd so quickly dismissed her son, so he nods, "Bucky has told me all about you."

That garners a bit of an eye-widening from his omega, and a little, stifled snort from Becca, who then elbows Sabrina and whispers, "Oh, I like him." 

"Good things, I hope." Winnifred hums, clearly impressed by his boldness. 

"Of course," He shoots her a classic Steve I've-Got-This Rogers™ smirk, which she clearly approves of. She smiles wide, flashing a set of perfect, white teeth in between ruby red lips.

"Well, you boys go on and get settled in. We'll call you down when George gets back." She waves a dismissive hand.

"Oh, he left?" Becca snorts, then takes a swig from her wine glass. "I knew the house felt lighter." 

"Becca," Both Bucky and his mother chide, completely in sync. 

Ah, Steve realizes; perhaps they're more similar than it seems.

Winnifred taps Bucky on the shoulder—like one would to get a stranger's attention—and nods at Steve, "Why don't you put your things away and show Steve around the house? When you're finished, your sisters and I could use your help propping up the tree." 

She gestures to the big, open space between the two staircases. Bucky hums, "Mhm, I was wondering where the tree was."

Becca groans, "I don't want to spend two hours putting up a fuckin' tree," 

"Language," Winnifred drawls gently, "And that's just too bad. It's tradition. Plus, it's been quite some time since I've had all my children home for Christmas." 

She doesn't look at Bucky—but his sisters do. Instead, she just hums something to herself, and returns in the direction she'd come from, just as abruptly as she'd arrived. Becca doesn't miss a beat. 

"So, Steve, d'you drink?" 

"He just got here." Sabrina scoffs, "You want to scare him off already? He hasn't even met Dad, yet." 

"That's exactly why I need to know his alcohol preferences." She says incredulously, "We'll all need to be varying levels of drunk to deal with that interaction." She swirls her wine, "Why do you think I've already started drinking?"

"Because you're an alcoholic." Sabrina deadpans. 

"I'm not an alcoholic—"

Bucky takes her glass and swirls it near his nose. "You are an alcoholic. And what is this? It better not be my good shit from the cellar."

"It may be a bit of your good shit from the cellar." 

"The '42?" His temper flares. 

"No, God no." She takes her hand to her chest, offended, "We're saving that for something good. Like when Sab has a baby. Or Dad dies." 

Bucky snorts, and leans into Steve's shoulder. "Fuck, I missed you guys." 

"We know," Becca smiles—a real, genuine smile, unlike the smirks Steve had seen her give up to now. "Go, put your shit away before mother-dearest does it for you."

 


 

They spent much longer than they needed to putting away their things—as many things as Bucky would even let Steve unpack, still fearing they may have to leave earlier than they'd pledged to stay. Steve watched carefully to be sure, but the tense shoulders of his omega made it obvious—he was still nervous. Even if he laughed, even if he shot shit with his sisters, he still had that looming fear behind those stormy gray eyes of his. 

Steve watched some of it slip away though, when he'd settled at the giant, floor-to-ceiling window facing the lake. He could smell the nostalgia coming from his omega, as they were staying in his childhood bedroom. Although it had clearly been recently-remodeled, and was completely devoid of any teenage paraphernalia, he still knew that just being in the space made his omega's worry slip away, even it was just a little bit. 

Steve had also been right about the lake—it was huge, and it didn't have any other houses on it, either. It wasn't cold enough for it to be frozen, yet, but the snow had begun to pile up around it's banks, leaving a ring of white around its dangerously-deep, dark blue depth. It almost didn't look deep, like it would only touch your knees if you tried to wade in it, but there was a little dock, with a decent sized dinghy tied to it—so it had to be deep enough to swim in. 

They eventually made their way through the rest of the immaculately kept house, Bucky pointing out some of the old pictures on the walls, and swarming with pride as he pointed out his sisters' law school graduation photos. Eventually, they'd settled in the living room, where a tree had been erected in the empty space in the corner. Bucky's sisters had already begun putting the fixings up—and had very quickly roped Steve into it. Bucky had completely refused to help, and after a few minutes of assisting, Steve knew why. 

"No, no, Steve, honey," Sabrina whispers, gently taking the ornament he'd just placed on a branch up between delicate, perfectly manicured hands, "Look, there's already a silver one next to it." 

Bucky snickers from his spot behind them. Steve isn't sure when he'd gotten a glass of wine—but considering the fact that Becca also seemed to have a fresh glass, he assumes she had something to do with it. 

"Excuse her," Becca grins, "Our darling sister is a bit anal about these sorts of things." 

"I'm not anal," Sabrina defends herself, "I just like the tree to look—I don't know, uniform." 

Becca snickers, "Oh, it looks uniform alright." 

"Why's it in here?" Bucky asks, tilting his head slightly to observe the seven-foot-tall pine. "It's usually in the foyer."

"Mhm, do you hate it? I hate it." Becca murmurs, also observing the tree. "Apparently, mom wants our guests to smell the pine from the dinner table."

Bucky pipes up, his eyebrows furrowed, "And who the fuck picked the colors this year? Silver and white? Looks like mom's closet." 

Steve realizes then that Mrs. Barnes seemed to have a habit of arriving out of thin air, and she chose just then to do so, "That would be your father, Jamie." 

Bucky immediately looks at Steve, a bit of a rouge exposing his embarrassment, before clearing his throat, "Yes, of course." 

Winnifred Barnes turns around to face her middle child and Steve, and deftly slips another silver ornament from his hand, hanging it in pattern with the others. Then, with a little pat on his shoulder, she nods, "You'll see it soon enough, Steve—it'll look beautiful once everything is in its right place." 

"I'm sure it will." Steve nods at her.

"James, darling, you've got a call in your father's study." Winnifred says with a passive wave of her hand. 

Bucky blinked up at Steve, who offers him a little smile that said everything Bucky needed to hear: I've got this, go on. So he set his wineglass down on the sideboard, and abandoned his lover with three of the most lethal women he knew. 

His father's study was at the rear of the house, the only room at the estate that Bucky and his sisters were barred from visiting, well into their teenage years. Bucky stood at the giant white door, and after a moment of overthinking, realizes that it's probably just Clint, or Sharon, and gently pushes the door in. 

Inside, however, he met a different sort of call.

His father is sat at his giant mahogany desk, a pen hanging from his lips comically. The look on his face, though, was anything besides comical. He looked angry, the way Bucky had seen him when he was growing up; whenever he'd done something too childlike for his father's austere tastes, or he'd fucked something up, somehow. His hair was still the same silky, dark brown at the top, only now peppered with gray around his temples. His eyebrows are knitted together, and for a fraction of a second, Bucky is disgusted with how much he favored his father—right down their fucking expressions.

George Barnes was not an unattractive man on the outside. He had a sharp, dashing, reserved look to him, and a big, entertaining personality, but he was empty where it mattered; he had no emotion behind those giant chocolate eyes, no heart beating in that broad, cold chest of his. His eyes held the kind of intensity that made even the sternest of men quiver; and well, Bucky wasn't among those kinds of men. So, the look in his eyes made Bucky's heart pick up its pace immediately. 

Going off of the way George Barnes clicked his lips open with an ornery sigh, Bucky knows he's fucked something up.

"James," George says, not even looking up at his oldest child.

He continues to shuffle his paperwork around until he finds the sheet he was looking for. Bucky couldn’t even put a number on how many conversations with his father had started that exact same way. It frightened him more as a child, he thinks, but that shiver of despondence and a deeply-rooted urge to impress his father still emerged.

"Dad. You called for me?" 

Ever quick to the point, he asks, "I did. What is it that’s happened between you and Rumlow, now?” 

Bucky feels his stomach knot together. What did his father know about Brock? And furthermore, what did he care? Almost every bone in his body wanted to shrink down in his father's presence, but that resilient sliver of defiance wanted him to scream.

"What do you mean, ‘what’s happened’?” 

"I meant what I asked, James."

George sets his glasses down with a muted thud. Bucky glances down at them and furrows his eyes, but his confusion only served to frustrate George more, and quickly lights his temper.

"Did you two fight or something? Or have you just made a habit of going from alpha to alpha these days?"

Bucky scoffs, which makes his father sit up and glare at him. He clears his throat again, unable to reign in his temper enough to forgo a jab. "Brock was not my alpha. We weren't even really seeing each other. You of all people should understand the concept of casual sex, huh, Dad?" 

"Look," George points his pen at him. "You're in my house, boy. You won't disrespect your mother like that, not here." 

Bucky has to stifle the laugh—because he was the one disrespecting his mother, right? He just nods, looking up at the rafters, "Got it. Are we done here? Did you just want to call me a whore or is there something else?” 

George takes a breath, before making another disappointed sound. “I don’t understand you. Do you not want to bond? Don’t you want kids? A family?”

“Yes.” Bucky nods, without hesitation. “Just not now. And sure as shit, not with him.”

”Rumlow has made me a lot of money, James. I offered him a position at Wiltshire-Barnes." 

“And what does that have to do with me?”

George’s anger spikes—Bucky can smell it in the air. His father’s scent was always the same: ash. He smelled like the residue of a fireplace left to burn down the hearth, especially when he was angry. He doesn’t answer, so Bucky takes a step closer.

“And how is he making you money if he doesn't work for you yet, Dad? " Unfortunately, he knew George well enough to know where this was going—and frankly, he wanted no part in the shit-show that would erupt from his father's less-than-legal business decisions. "Look—this doesn't have anything to do with me."

"I only offered him a place with us because I knew you two were seeing each other." George snaps.

Bucky makes a face, and corrects him. "Fucking each other."

"Do not get vulgar with me."

"I'm just calling it like it was, Dad." Bucky shrugs, offering his palms up in defiance. "We slept together a few times."

"Almost two years is your definition of a few times?" 

"It was yours, too, wasn't it?" 

George sat back in his chair, glaring at his son’s bravado. And Bucky—well, Bucky knew how to push his father's buttons, but he never quite knew just how far was too far. It had landed him a few backhands through his teenage years, and still, he never quite recognized George's limit. The man always seemed to teeter on the edge of violence, until he snapped. 

For the first time, Bucky predicted the snap. 

"When your mother told me you were bringing someone home for the holidays, I assumed it would be Brock." George says, his voice even and smooth. "Instead, you've disappointed me, again, by shacking up with some army esquire." 

Bucky's spine straightens instinctively, and his temper flares, ready to defend his alpha, "His name is Steve. Steve Rogers, as in CFO of Rogers & Co." 

"For fuck's sake, James, it doesn't matter—"

“Of course—” 

"No, it doesn't!," George bolts to his feet, "I gave Brock your position at Wiltshire-Barnes, James!"

Silence covers them both, but for two very different reasons. George was fuming, but Bucky was enthused. He doesn't hide the hint of a smile that plays his lips.

"You what?"

George huffs out a breath, and waves a hand, "Your mother insisted I keep it open for you. Then you went and took half of Stark Finance, which made it more than clear that you wouldn't be coming home any time soon." 

"So, what?" Bucky almost laughs, "You gave Brock my position out of spite?” He scrubs his hand over his jaw, and adds, “Sounds like some shit you would do."

"God damn it, James, now is not the time to talk about how much you hate your father," George shouts. "This is about our company—our family company. What about your sisters? You want some outsider to own more of our family's money than your own sisters?" 

"Whose fault is that, Dad?" Bucky takes a few threatening steps closer, "Who is it that would rather see a man—any man—in charge of things, over his own fucking daughters?" After a beat, he adds, "Or his son?" 

"He was supposed to be your alpha, and that position was supposed to stay in our family." George snaps, "But you can't even keep an alpha happy long enough for him to bond with you, can you? That's why you've moved to Steve, isn't it?" 

Bucky had to physically curb his urge to reach out and strangle his father. It takes a few deep breaths before he can speak again. "Brock tried to put his hands on me, Dad."

"And?" He asks, as if it's of no consequence. "You're his omega, if he hits you, he hits you." 

“I’m not his omega.”  Bucky grits his teeth. “And I’m not explaining why physical violence isn’t how you solve things, especially not to you.” But his sisters futures still weighed on his conscience, so after a moment, he lowers his voice and asks,  "How much did you offer him?”

George presses his closed hand to his lips. “General board rights, fourteen percent stakes. Voting rights on all major decisions."

"Fourteen fuckin' percent?" Bucky scoffs, "What do Becca and Sab have?"

"Together? Roughly twenty-two."

"Of everything?"

"Everything." 

"So you planned to sign Brock Rumlow, an absolute fuckin' stranger, a fourteen percent stake on your twelve million dollar business?"

"Are you making a point here, James?" George snaps.

"I'm just being thorough, because I know you, and I know you aren't an idiot—at least not when it comes to your money." Bucky glares, "So, what did you do?"

"This is ridiculous—will you talk to him or not?"

"I asked you a question," Bucky raises his voice, and watches the twitch in his father's brow. "What did you do, and will it affect the girls?"

George only tightens his lips into a line, and nods. Bucky lets a long moment pass, before he comes to a decision.

“I’ll talk to him. But I don’t want any part of this affecting me, or Barton & Barnes.”

"It won't have to, if you make things up to Brock." 

"No. Let me be clearer, then." Bucky points a lean finger at his father. "I'm offering my services to you as a lawyer, not my hand in marriage as some kind of fucked-up payment for whatever shady shit the two of you got into. Is that understood?"

"All this isn't necessary—" 

"You will also compensate Barton & Barnes for our time and efforts." Bucky talks over him, "And you will acknowledge Steve as my bonded mate, because he is my bonded mate. He wanted nothing more than to meet you, and to gain your respect, no matter how hard I tried to convince him it wouldn't be worth the trip. The moment you disrespect him, this agreement is null and void—we will leave your house and we will not come back again. Am I understood?"

George, completely boxed into a corner, clenches his jaw tight. Slowly, he extends his palm. Bucky takes it, and they share a quick, curt shake. Bucky takes a breath, and turns for the door.

"Good. We're putting up your God-awful Christmas tree. Come meet Steve." 


 

Chapter Text

To Steve, it honestly was beginning to feel like the Barnes' operated on some sort of metronome. 

They'd somehow go from being friendly and warm and family, to combative and distant, in mere seconds of conversation. If Steve weren't feeling Bucky's emotions flipping around every hour, he might find their dynamic kind of interesting. He'd first noticed it when George and Bucky emerged from the back of the house, with scowls on their faces, as though they'd fought. 

Steve had immediately postured up, ready to impress the man of the house; but it was as though George had slapped a mask on over his face—he approached Steve, smiling ear to ear, and clapped him on the shoulder. "Steve Rogers! Good to finally meet you, son,"

And that surprisingly warm greeting didn't only surprise Steve. Both Barnes sisters had stood in awed silence, wondering just what the hell they'd witnessed. Even the house's matriarch stood there, eyes wide as the two men embraced each other. 

Steve, however, immediately knew that he'd been put up to it. 

George Barnes had a reputation for being a hard-ass, and Bucky—well, Bucky's reluctance to come home only solidified that idea. So when the two of them talked politics, and stocks, and real estate, it all felt a bit forced. Fortunately for Steve, he didn't need to feel like he was being patronized for too long. The metronome quickly swung in the opposite direction after dinner. 

"It's not up for discussion." George had said to Becca.

Truth be told, Steve hadn't heard what they'd been talking about, but the way Bucky's scent spiked made him pay attention. 

"It should be." Bucky commented lazily. 

"Thank you, finally, someone with a bit of sense,"

Becca then launched headfirst into a plan for some changes she wanted to implement at Wiltshire-Barnes, something that only seemed to make George angry. His square jaw clicked shut, tensing. Bucky, however, kept his eyes squarely on his father's, silently daring him to speak out of turn. Becca talked, gaining a few nods of agreement, and a few chuckles at her clever potshots, until she let the idea go. 

And just to give Steve whiplash, the mood changed drastically, again. Winnie, as Steve learned she liked to be called, had clasped her hands together and hummed, "That's enough talk of work, loves. Bucky? Why don't you play us something?"

Bucky's cheeks went rosy, and a shy smile made Steve's gut tighten. "M'rusty, mom. It's been years." 

"You took lessons forever, Bug." Sabrina had wailed, "C'mon. You know how much I love hearing you play." 

And so he did. And Steve would be bold-face lying if he'd said he knew Bucky could play the piano.

Bucky's fingers graced over the keys flawlessly, playing O Holy Night. Steve watched a scene play out that he can only imagine happened time and time again in the Barnes household: tensions that had been dangerously high fizzled out into a sense of mild adoration for the eldest Barnes child. His sisters sat together in an arm chair, sipping their wine, gazing reverently at Bucky. Winnie stood leaned up against the back of the piano, her eyes fixed on Bucky, her pride clearly in her smile. Even George, stood near the tree, nursing a glass of scotch, was looking at his eldest son, a strange swirl of pride and resentment in his dark eyes.

Bucky, even after years of being absent, seemed to be the only thing holding them together.

And Steve realizes then, that even if they fought, even if they made things entirely too difficult for each other sometimes, Bucky was the one who always made sure that they were all alright—and that made him look at his omega with a swarm of love, warming him up more than his glass of scotch was. He realizes, even though he himself would never be a Barnes, he would always share that sentiment with them—Bucky was the leading light in his life now, and he wouldn't trade that feeling for anything in the world. 

After a few more songs from their resident pianist, Winnifred and George decided to retire for the night. Or, rather, as Steve had noticed, Winnifred had decided they needed to retire, and George didn't seem to have a choice in the matter. Steve also noticed the glare George and his son shared, a glare that could cut glass, both of them daring the other to look away first.

But when they'd left, the remaining Barnes' breathed a sigh of relief. See, now that their high-strung parents were gone, they could, well, be themselves.

Steve watched them spring into action: Becca grabbing the booze from the bar-top, Sab collecting all of the blankets from around the den, and Bucky grabbing crystal glasses. Becca had tossed a bottle of scotch at him, which he'd barely managed to catch, and nodded, "C'mon, blondie, let's go."

The Barnes' backyard felt like it was something out of a movie—the stars, twinkling bright against a sheet of black sky, the shimmery blue of the pool, the midnight black of the lake behind it. There's a fire pit, too; which Steve watched Bucky chuck a few planks into, before casting one of Sab's giant blankets over the two of them. 

And with it now being just the four of them, the conversation moved easily; within a few moments, they were laughing and talking.

"You should have seen him, Steve." Sabrina giggles, tears in her eyes from laughing so hard. "He was drunk as a fish,"

Bucky scoffs out a little laugh, "C'mon, I was seventeen! I had no business drinking at all, much less scotch. I'm much better at it now." 

Steve raises his eyebrows, "At what, drinking?"

"Mmhm,"

"Oh, can it, Bug. None of us can hold our liquor, you know that." Becca grins, "Except Dad, after years of practice, he's mastered it."

That made Bucky snort. "Well I must take after him in yet another way—I can out drink all three of you smug fuckers if I tried." 

"Oh really?" Steve glances down at his omega, at the warmth in his cheeks, a warm pink in the glow of the fire pit. 

"Yeah, even you, hotshot." 

So, Steve hands him his glass. There's about two fingers of the hot whiskey left in the bottom. Bucky frowns at the glass. 

"Fine." He humphs, takes it to the head, and only makes a face for a few seconds after downing it. "See? Easy." 

The strain in his voice is soft, but Steve heard it, and it makes him smile at his headstrong lover. He'd always take the opportunity to prove himself—that was another thing Steve realized he loved about him. 

The amber liquid seemed to flush Bucky's face even more than his few glasses of wine did, and that pink seemed to flush his lips, too. And well, maybe it was the scotch in his own system, but Steve couldn't control himself even if he wanted to. He tips his head forward and kisses him, taking the trace of whiskey from his lips. Bucky shifted against him, hesitant at first, but quickly melting into the kiss, and laughing lightly when they separated. 

"If I have to see that happen again, I will actually throw up." Becca gags for good measure.

Bucky laughs, pulling Steve's arm around him. "Still think boys are gross then, Becca?"

"Revolting."

Bucky hums, a little acknowledgement of his sister's jab. "So, when does Darcy get in?" 

The youngest Barnes sister seems to perk up. A hint of a smile pulls her pout up on one side. "Christmas morning. She's delayed in Vermont. Weather's shit."

Sabrina beams "Did you tell—"

"No," Becca cuts her off.

"What! Why not?"

"Tell me what?" Bucky perks up against Steve's chest.

Sabrina hums, smiling at her sister, "Go on, tell them, or I will. I'm dying over here, keeping this secret." 

Becca rolls her eyes, and as if it's nothing, she nods, "I'm going to ask Darcy to marry me."

"What?" Bucky sits up, almost bumping Steve's chin. "Oh my god, Becks,"

"Shut up," She groans.

"Congratulations?" Steve peaks an eyebrow, by her previous response, he's unsure if that was the right reply.

"See! Thank you, Steve." Becca gestures to him, and smiles, "That's how you respond to an engagement."

"I'm sorry, you just—just caught me off guard," Bucky beams, "What the hell? What happened to never settling? Do you remember that, Sab?" 

The middle child smiles, twirling her hair around her finger. "I do," 

"Well, you know better than anyone else that plans change." She smiles sweetly at Steve, then arches an eyebrow at her brother.

"My baby sister is getting married." Bucky grins, laying back against his alpha again. "I can't fucking believe it." 

Steve felt a twang of something jealous in his chest. Normally, every almost-brother-in-law would be terrified by their partner's siblings getting hitched. It could leave an enormous amount of pressure on their unmarried siblings to settle down; but Steve wasn't afraid, like most people would be. He was jealous. 

And he knows that it's a horrible thing to feel—he should be happy, especially when seeing the smile on Bucky's face, and hearing the glee in his voice for his sister—but he only wishes that they were the ones making that announcement. That he was the one Bucky felt that happy about marriage with. It's insane and asinine, but he still feels that urge to have Bucky, even if he already did. A piece of paper certifying their union or even a mark wouldn't change the way they felt about each other, but fuck, did he want them. 

Bucky had been clear, though. He wanted to wait, and Steve respected that. Bucky was just that sort of person. He needed to be certain, one-hundred percent certain, that Steve's charm wasn't going to fade away, even though they both knew that it wouldn't. And so, Steve would wait for him. However long it took to convince him that he wasn't going anywhere, he would wait.

Steve had missed a joke, because Bucky and his sisters were laughing again. Just then, Bucky glanced up at his alpha and smiled gently.  He drops his voice low and asks, "Are you ready for bed, babe?"

"Yeah, if you are, love." 

"Disgusting domesticity." Becca groans, and nudges Sabrina. "Am I like that? With Darcy?" 

"You are. But I think they're cute!" Sabrina's twinkling eyes look over at the boys lovingly. 

"Well," Bucky shoves himself to his feet, a little wobbly from the booze, and sticks his hand out to help Steve up, too. "Alright. Goodnight, you insufferable assholes."

"Goodnight, ladies." Steve says farewell a pitch nicer than their brother had.

"Goodnight, lovebirds. Enjoy yourselves." Sabrina sings and wiggles her fingers at them as they make their way inside. The last part makes Steve glance over his shoulder at her, but she only wags her eyebrows back at him.


Maybe it was written on his face. Maybe Sabrina just knew her brother way better than Steve assumed she did, but when the glass door slid shut behind them, Sabrina's farewell made a whole lot more sense.

Bucky's hands, somehow still warm even though it was at least forty degrees outside, immediately grasp at the hem of Steve's shirt. 

"You're driving me crazy, Stevie." hums Bucky, and Steve almost didn't catch the last bit before his omega had nuzzled his face up against his neck. "Y'smell good."

"Buck!"

"Mhm? What?" He murmurs, still leaving kisses up the side of his neck. He tears his eyes away from Steve for just a second, to look through the glass, "Them? They can't see us. Promise."

"What about your parents?" Steve tuts, catching both of Bucky's hands before he could get at his belt. 

 "Asleep." He looks at the clock—half past one. "Definitely asleep."

"You're sure?"

"Yes."

They hadn't even made it through the living room before Bucky'd begun stripping his clothes off. He wasn't sure where all of this excitement came from, but he also wasn't going to stop him. The trip up the stairs was haphazard and probably a bit dangerous, but when the bedroom door shut behind them, Steve had already lost his shirt, his belt, and his shoes. 

"Buck," Steve pulled away gently—and he realizes that that, pulling away from his omega when every inch of his body wanted him, was definitely the hardest thing he'd ever had to do.

James is all flustered, his eyes soft and bright and somehow also thick with lust. Warmth flooded his lips, tinting them that delicious shade of pink Steve would never be able to resist. His hair had flopped out of place, a bit of it hanging in his eyes now; but Bucky didn't look like he cared. He didn't smell like he cared, either. Hot, heavy arousal came from the omega's skin. Steve hasn't smelled him this turned on since his heat.

"Are you sure you want to do this here?" Steve huffs, forcing his eyes up to Bucky's and willing his brain to shake the fog of his lover's scent and think responsibly. He could regret this later, couldn't he? Fucking just a few doors down from where his parents were sleeping?

Bucky just pulls his sweater over his head and tosses it on the floor; and when Steve looks out at that chest of his, at those perfect shoulders, that soft neck just waiting for his mark, Steve felt his adrenaline spike.

"Yes, Stevie."

"Good," Steve growls, and yanks Bucky's waist against his, loving the heft of his erection against his own. It made him feel frenzied with lust, knowing just how hot his omega got for him—it ripped a thick growl of a moan from his throat, which made Bucky grin. 

And Steve had realized a while ago the Bucky was the best sex he had ever and would ever have, but each time they did, he thinks it tops the time before. This time, he's thinking with his cock way more efficiently than his brain. He hefts Bucky up onto the vanity, sending their toiletries off the edge with various thuds. Neither of them stop touching the other, though. 

In the blink of an eye, Bucky's pants were gone, and so were Steve's. They'd blinked, and like magic, they were horny teenage boys again, stripped down to their underwear and rutting against each other like they didn't know what came next. Steve would be perfectly content doing just that—edging his omega until he was panting and begging, and a dripping wet mess for him—but Bucky seemed to have other plans. The smaller man shifted himself suddenly and pouted.

"C'mon, Stevie." 

Steve pulls away with a delicious pop of his lips. "Hm?"

"Stop teasing me."

Steve furrows his brow at Bucky's tone. He glanced down between them—the outline of his own erection, lined up with the damp spot on Bucky's boxers. He'd been so lost in the pleasure of the friction that he didn't realize just how quickly he'd edged his lover. He can only imagine how frustrating it would be to be so needy, and have what you want so close. So of course, he made no moves to end his teasing. 

"Just be still and relax, Buck." Steve smiles, offering the heft of his cock against Bucky's. The omega spreads his legs further instinctively. "There. Doesn't it feel good?"

Bucky nods—the snark completely out of his voice already. He had that look in his eye, the one that made Steve lose his shit every single time. His eyebrows pinched up in the center, his sweet steel-blue eyes went slack with want, and his kiss-plumped lips clicked open with soft, needy sounds.  Steve had never been a 'manifest the day' sort of person, but lately, that was why he got up in the morning. Every day was an opportunity to see his favorite person so deliciously undone, just like this. 

Liquor was warm and sweet on Bucky's lips, and Steve decided to attribute some of his neediness to just that. Steve didn't mind though—he liked him needy. He liked watching him rut up against him, looking at the urgency written allover his face, at how Bucky wanted him so bad that he couldn't even put together the words to ask for it; he just sat there with that gorgeous, depraved, downright illicit look on his face until Steve made him feel good. 

And Steve would tease him until he fucking fell apart, every time. 

After another teasing roll of his hips, Bucky finally whines, "D'you want me on top?"

"Hell yeah, I want you on top." 

Steve turns them both around so he could sit on the edge of the bed and have Bucky comfortably in his lap. They were such suckers for each other—acting as if even a few seconds apart, even if it were just to adjust themselves, would literally kill them. They turned unbelievably clingy when they were together like this, needing to touch, to kiss, to hold each other every second, lest they combust. 

Steve could also feel the slick coming through Bucky's underwear—that dampness he wanted to bury either his face or his dick in, he didn't know which one yet. If Bucky and his impatience had any say, Steve would bet good money he'd prefer the latter. 

He does, shifting his hips up to yank Steve's erection free. 

"Please?" Bucky murmurs, realizing he couldn't get it in himself. 

"Go on," Steve smiles up at him, a shit-eating, smug smile that made Bucky's gut swirl with even more want. "Take it since you want it so bad." 

"Steve," 

Bucky shifted himself again, getting two of his fingers in instead. That put a wrench in Steve's teasing. 

"C'mon, Buck, slide me in," Steve taunts, but Bucky was way more interested in fucking himself, down on his fingers. 

Steve watched as his omega lulled his head  forward, pressing against his collar as he continued to slide his fingers in and out of himself. Bucky moans against Steve's shoulder, "Ho-ly shit, Stevie."

"Enjoying yourself?" 

"Mhm,

Bucky's lips fall open again, and he whines out another moan, and, well, Steve was beginning to grow jealous. 

"Not that I ain't enjoyin' this," He groans, watching appreciatively as Bucky bites his lip. "but are y'just gonna fuck yourself on my lap or can I have a go?"

"I don't know," Bucky hums, slipping his fingers out, and using the slick to lube the head of Steve's cock, "Do you even want a go?" 

"Tease." Steve tuts, tearing through Bucky's boxers. 

The omega gasps, but Steve's brain was on alpha auto-pilot. In an instant, he had Bucky on his back in the middle the giant bed, doe-eyed and wanting. His mouth was hot and wet over Bucky's skin, leaving pink welts all over his shoulder and neck. His body was bigger than Bucky's, hovering over him easily, and with cooperation from the smaller man, Steve quickly had Bucky's legs over his shoulders. 

"Like this?" He asks, popping a kiss down on his omega's lips.

Bucky nods about a hundred times, too ready for Steve's cock to accidentally say something snarky and further delay getting what he wanted; but Steve knew Bucky well enough to know he was taking a cop out. He reaches down and gently tugs his lips open. 

"Tell me, baby." Steve teases, "You want me like this?" 

"Yes, Stevie." 

"Just like this?" He teases again.

"Yes!"

So Steves slides into him with one smooth stroke.  

Bucky lets out a gasp that should have frightened Steve, but he'd quickly yanked him down to take his lips, "Yes, Stevie, all the way." 

Steve obliges, pulling all the way out with an arch of his back, before slamming right back into his lover. Bucky gasps again, this time with hurried little pleads against Steve's lips—pleads for what, Steve wasn't sure, but he sure as hell was going to give it to him. After he felt Bucky relax beneath him, he picked up his pace. 

The bed frame squeaked a bit beneath them, filling the air around them with the sound, but they filled the room with their sounds, too. Steve whispering little praises against Bucky's skin, Bucky begging and whimpering beautifully, and their breaths, hot and heavy.

"Don't stop," Bucky warns him—and it was a threat more than it was a fair warning. He wanted to feel Steve in him when he came, he was needy, greedy for it. 

And Steve gave it do him, tilting his hips up to drive right into that spot making Bucky's vision go blurry. With his eyes crossed and his lungs spent, he came allover himself, and with a grunt he had to stifle, Steve follows closely.

Steve reaches down and runs his thumb over Bucky's plump bottom lip, "Mhm, I love it when you make that face, Buck."

Bucky's lost for words, but he smiles and kisses that thumb. 

That hand trails over Bucky's throat, and his shoulder, before Steve drops his head down in the crook of Bucky's neck. Right there, he thinks. That's where their mark would go. Steve always felt that biological pull to seal their bond—especially after having sex—but he knew how antsy the thought made his lover. He would wait—he wasn't saying he wouldn't wait—but he liked to offer a little reminder every now and again. Today, it was a little kiss, right there in the crook of his neckwhere Steve wanted to prove to the world that he'd claimed the most gorgeous omega in the city. 

Bucky smiles, knitting his fingers through Steve's hair, and they fell asleep just like that, absolutely spent, tangled-up, and intoxicated. 


 

When Bucky woke up the following morning, he was still under Steve. 

Normally he wouldn't mind being there, but he really needed to pee; and his head hurts with the vague but familiar thump-thump-thump of a mild hangover. He managed to slide out without waking his alpha, and finds himself face to face with an unruly sight—himself in the en suite mirror. 

His hair is knotted and wild, his face flushed pink, and headlining the freak-show: large, black-and-blue hickies up and down his neck.

Oddly enough, he wasn't upset—probably because he remembered how those bruises got there. The thought put a shy smile on his face. 

After a quick shower, which somehow still didn't rouse Steve, Bucky decides to get some coffee. If he needed it after just a few glasses of wine and a little whiskey, he knows Steve needs it too. His father had made sure there was a glass of scotch in Steve's hand at every minute past dinner. 

Clad in just a pair of Steve's loose sweatpants, he makes his way downstairs and ends up face to face with the outrageous espresso machine he'd gifted his parents a few Christmases ago, and being that it was early enough that no one else would be awake for at least a few hours,  he settles in to figure it out. After about ten minutes, he welcomes defeat.

Fortunately, Sabrina came bouncing down the stairs, still in her fuzzy pink pajamas.

"Oh God, you look spent." 

"Good morning, Sab." Bucky croaks, tilting his head and inspecting the machine from another angle, as though that would help. 

"Holy shit!" She gasps, running a red-nailed finger up the side of his neck, "Steve doesn't fuck around, huh?" 

"No, he doesn't." He flinches from her probing, "Would you stop fuckin' touchin' me and help me make a cup of coffee with this thing?" 

"Y'know for someone who recently got laid, you're a being a bit of a bitch." She smiles, taking the espresso handle off with a quick shift of her wrist—which Bucky quickly declares he'd tried a hundred times. 

"Well, it's early. I can get to full-bitch by noon, you think?" 

"At this rate?" she hums, popping the portafilter back in. "Full-bitch if this coffee isn't strong enough. I hope Steve likes dark roast, because dad used the last of the creamer." 

"He's awake?" Bucky's brows go up. "Good, I need to talk to him." 

"He has company over." 

Bucky's temper flares, "What?"

"Oh!" Sabrina's eyes widen, "No, God no, not that kind of company, not anymore. Work company, apparently. It's a man, I mean." 

"On Christmas Eve?" 

"Does that surprise you? Apparently it couldn't wait. " She shrugs. "He said they'd be finishing up well before breakfast." 

"Good." He hums, taking a sip of the coffee his sister made for him. It's smooth and even and delicious, even if he had no idea how she'd made it, even after watching her make it. "Thank you." 

Sabrina, ever full of surprises, casually asks, "When were you going to tell me that Dad sold your portion of the company?"

Bucky chokes. "What?"

"He told Becca late last night after you and Steve went to bed. She told me after." 

"Sab, I—"

"I'm not upset, I just want to know what you're going to do about it, and how I can help you get it back." 

"I don't want it." Bucky deadpans.

"I know you don't. Becca and I do, though." 

"And you guys should have it," Bucky could almost scream it—his sisters did the grunt work at Wiltshire-Barnes, they carried that firm on their shoulders, and everyone knew it. Everyone except their father, apparently. 

"Well, who's the buyer?" She hums, making herself a cup now. 

He starts to say something, but his voice stalls. Bucky didn't have the heart to tell her that there was no buyer, just an idiot recipient who got the steal of a lifetime from their idiot father. 

Off to the back entrance to the kitchen, Bucky heard his father's voice, "—sounds like he's awake in the kitchen." 

George Barnes rounds the corner with a smile on his face. It quickly fades when he sees that Bucky is half-dressed and Sabrina is present. On George's tail is another man that Bucky doesn't bother looking at. Sabrina was also half in the way, blocking his view with her shiny brown hair. 

"Mornin'," Bucky offers half-assed, and takes another sip of his coffee. He didn't have the mental capacity to deal with another reaming from his father, not this early. 

Another voice chimes up, a deep, grating voice that gives Bucky goosebumps, "Good mornin', handsome." 

His eyes snap up—he can't even focus on his father, because he's locked eyes with Brock Rumlow.  


 

Chapter Text


 Steve went from being dead-to-the-world asleep, to completely awake in a matter of seconds. 

At first, he smelled it. Rage, frustration, and hostility, all wrapped up in Bucky's scent. Then he heard it: shouting. Some of it Bucky's voice, some of it George's. A softer, sweeter voice yelled too—one of the sisters, probably. Listening closer, it wasn't the rasp of Becca's voice. It was Sab's. Sweet, tiny Sab was shouting.

That got him out of bed instantly.

Then, after slapping on some clothes in record time, he saw it. From the landing of the stairs, he could see Bucky. Sabrina was standing behind of him, holding both of his arms back. He was yelling. 

"Why the fuck would you bring him here?"

Bucky's entire body is tense—he's standing rigidly, his hands balled into fists. In the all the years he's known him—granted only a few weeks of that time were they intimately acquainted—Steve had never seen him this angry. Not that he hadn't seen him angry at all—he'd seen him yell before, but he'd never seen him so angry that he'd needed to be restrained. Honestly, he wouldn't have thought him even capable of that sort of rage, but there he is, almost vibrating with anger, a world of hate behind his eyes.

Steve approaches slowly. "Buck? What's going on?" 

Bucky's eyes snap to him, and what Steve saw there frightened him even more. All trace of Bucky's snarky, tender, normal self was gone, drained out with the blue of his eyes, leaving his gaze gray and hollow-looking, eerily like his father's. 

"Stevie, don't come in here." Bucky says, his voice tight.

"What?" Steve takes a few steps closer. "What the hell is goin' on? Are you alright?" 

"Oh, is that him? He's here?" Another voice asks, a deep, gravelly voice that made no attempt to cover its disappointment. And then, the scent of another alpha—cigarettes and rain—makes Steve stop dead in his tracks.

He knows that scent, and that voice. 

That was Brock Rumlow's voice.

He doesn't remember deciding to rush forward into the room—but evidently it had happened instinctively, because Sabrina was only just quick enough to grab his shoulders and hold him back.

"Steve, no." 

"No?" Steve spins around, hovering over Bucky, "No? Are you fuckin' kidding me?" He turns to face Rumlow again, "What the hell is he doing here?" Then, glaring directly at Brock's smug face, "I told you if I saw you again I'd kill you." 

"Yeah, you did." Brock rolls his eyes, and Sabrina has to tighten her grip on Steve to prevent him from lunging again. "But I don't think you fuckin' meant it then, and I don't think you mean it now." 

"D'you want to see just what the fuck I meant?" 

"I think I do, yeah." 

"You little—"

George scoffs of to the side. Steve was so angry, he hadn't even seen him leaning on the island. 

"This has nothing to do with Steve," Bucky shouts, glaring at his father. "Why would you bring him here? Why couldn't you just let me handle this?" 

"Alright, that's enough." George says, as though Steve weren't literally preparing to rip Brock apart with his bare hands. "You are not worth all this fuss. Let's keep things respectful. How about we go to my office? Have a little chat?" 

"Dad—" Sabrina whispers, clearly upset by the entire debacle.

And she wasn't the only one who hated how George spoke to his son.

Steve's teeth grit together so hard they could have honestly shattered, and he quickly talks over Sab. "With all due respect Mr. Barnes, I'm not letting him anywhere near Bucky." 

"Well, that's too bad, because I'm not asking." George returns.

"Neither am I." Steve narrows his eyes.

He wouldn't. He couldn't. Not after last time. Steve could still see the blood dripping down Sharon's nose. 

"Steve," Bucky says, his voice a bit calmer now. "Just give me a minute with them. We—we just need to talk."

The alpha whips around, his scent flaring. Smoke and cinnamon, "What? Absolutely not."

"I just need to talk to them." He says again, quieter this time. "It's just business,"

"I don't care, Buck—"

"Oh my God." Brock gasps, as if he'd just pieced things together. "You didn't even tell him, did you?" He turns to George with a little grin. 

George makes a face. "He wouldn't be my son if he didn't try to take a shortcut."

"Tell me what?" Steve's eyes dart between the other alphas.

Brock's smile only grows bigger. "You really didn't tell him? I figured you would have—what with how in love you two seem to be—but you didn't. What a wonderful couple—completely in sync!"

"Just shut up, Brock." Bucky snaps. 

"Tell me what?" Steve repeats, closer to Bucky now. "What the hell are they talking about, Buck?" 

Bucky isn't able to meet his eyes, and it hurts Steve more than he thought it would. "Steve, please, just calm down and let me deal with this. Please." 

"What the hell?" Steve narrows his eyes, "When did we start keeping things from each other?"

"When it doesn't concern you!" Bucky snaps, and immediately  wishes he hadn't. Steve's face went hard, his jaw flexing in annoyance. 

"Look," Steve drops his voice down low, and just his tone, let alone his strong pheromones, makes Bucky want to apologize. "I don't know what's going on here, but there is no way in hell I'm letting him anywhere near you. That's final." 

Bucky feels a lump surface in his throat. Part of him was relieved—because he would listen to Steve. In some weird, biologically-betraying way, he knew Steve only had what was best for him in mind. If he said he wouldn't allow him in the same room as Rumlow, he wouldn't contest that. But another part of him was angry—he loved Steve, and he trusted him too, but they hadn't even shared a mark yet. When did he sign away his autonomy? Would Steve always be like this? 

Just as Bucky opens his mouth to reply, Winnifred enters the kitchen. With her, a wave of silence came, too. 

Somehow, at the ass-crack of dawn, Winnifred Barnes is already dressed and ready for the day. She's got on all white, like some kind of angel come to mediate. Everyone in the room paused to look at her, and one-by-one she regarded them all. Then, after piecing things together, she glances at her husband.

"Is there a reason you've got everyone so riled up before breakfast?" 

Her words are light, but everyone present—probably even Brock—immediately knew whose side she was on. George scoffs, so Sabrina quickly tries to salvage the interaction.

"Everything's fine, Mom—"

"I don't think everything is, Sabrina." She hums, folding her arms. "Why is Jamie half-naked? Why does his alpha smell like he's about to kill someone?" And with a quick glance at Brock, "And who the hell are you?" 

"Brock Rumlow, ma'am." He stammers, and offers his hand. She simply looks at it, then looks up at his face with an unbridled scrutiny.

"Winnie," George murmurs down at her, an unfinished command. She sighs, and takes his hand but doesn't shake it. 

"Alright, Brock," She takes a breath, "What are you doing in my house before the sun's even risen properly?" 

"Well, I—"

"It's business, Mom." Bucky bites. "Let it be, please." 

"Business?" She re-directs her glare to George. "On Christmas Eve, George?"

"I'm buying into Wiltshire-Barnes, ma'am." Brock offers, as if that helps. "Mr. Barnes sold me some shares."

"Gave." Bucky corrects him. "He gave you my shares. Like a fucking idiot."

"Look, boy." snaps George, "I won't have you questioning how I run things in this family—especially not when you don't want anything to do with us." 

"I'll question what I have to when it jeopardizes my sisters." Bucky snaps back, "Especially when you call me in to clean up your mess." 

"C'mon, we're all family here, right?" Brock sings, failing miserably to diffuse the situation. "Lets just talk, huh? The three of us—we're all reasonable men, I think we can come up with something. The last thing I want to do is upset the family I'm trying to join."

"What?" Steve and Winnie both yell at the same time. 

Steve's temper flares more than it had all morning. He was seeing red, but before he committed a murder in the Barnes house, he needed Bucky to start fucking talking.

See, he could take George being disrespectful—as much as he hated it, he was still Bucky's father, and he'd always outwardly respect him, even if he didn't inwardly—and he could take Brock being, well, Brock; but what he couldn't take was Bucky keeping secrets from him. Secrets that seemingly involved Brock of all people taking his place. His brain is on alpha autopilot again—and he can smell Bucky's scent spike with fear in response to his own. He wouldn't want to be on the receiving end of this conversation, either. 

He takes a few steps closer to Bucky and barks out, low and authoritative, "Outside. Now."  Without another word, he went towards the front door. 

Bucky glances at his mother of all people, probably on instinct, as she was the only other omega in the room. She nods, and whispers, "Go. Talk to him, he's your alpha. You can handle all this after." 

Near the door, Steve shouts. "Buck."

Bucky jumps at the volume of Steve's command, but without another glance at his family or Brock, quickly follows him out through the front door. 

 


 

It still isn't snowing, but it was definitely colder than it had been yesterday. 

Steve was fuming, and in the second it took for him to click the front door shut, Bucky felt his stomach drop. There was something in Steve's eyes—something Bucky recognized all too well. Disappointment. It made his own eyes water and his lip threaten to tremble.

Steve looks down at him—still in his pajama pants—and sighs.

"Here." Steve growls, shrugs out of his sweatshirt, and yanks it over Bucky's head. 

"Thank you." Bucky whispers, his voice so low that he barely heard it. He crosses his arms and holds the warm fabric close. "I was going to tell you, Steve."

"When?" He snaps.

"After I'd handled it." 

"Explain." Steve narrows his eyes. 

Bucky sighs. Perhaps he didn't need to do everything alone. Perhaps Steve could help.

And so he explained it all—the shares that were supposed to be his, the implied illicit activities, everything—and watches as none of it changed Steve's scowl.

As soon as he was finished explaining himself, Steve unclenches his jaw and asks, "And what the hell does that have to do with him?

"Someone told my father about us. Me—me and him, I mean." Bucky murmurs, "I don't know, I guess he thought it would spite me. Giving my alpha the shares that belonged to me—I don't know." 

Steve inhales sharply. The sound of Bucky saying "My alpha" not referring to him made him want to storm right back in there and strangle Rumlow. 

"I wasn't going to do anything, Steve," Bucky looks down, "But Sab and Becca—he'd have more shares than them both combined. He could easily vote them out if he wanted to, and I wouldn't put it past him." 

"So why is he here now?" Steve grits out.

"I don't know, Stevie, I promise." Bucky begs, "I told them I would handle things when we got back to the city, that I would meet with Rumlow and get him to settle—"

"You were planning to meet him? Alone?" His voice rises again.

"What choice did I have?"

Me, he almost says, I could have handled this. His jaw flexes again. He has to remind himself that Bucky doesn't want to be kept. "Well, what the hell is he talkin' about, this being the family he intends to join?" 

"I don't know—"

Steve doesn't speak to cut him off, he just looks at him for a long moment, a look that said they both knew what Rumlow was implying. Neither of them spoke it, though. They didn't need to. Steve wouldn't let him get close enough to lay a finger on him, and they both knew it.

Bucky's eyes were blue again—maybe it was just the cool, overcast light of the early morning, but it was like they were begging Steve to listen to him. And he wants to. 

He really really wants to.

"Why didn't you just tell me?" He whispers, his voice less angry now.

"I didn't want you to be upset with me." Bucky says softly. "For agreeing to meet with him." 

"Well, I am." Steve exhales. "Fucking furious with you, actually."

"I'm sorry." 

A long moment passes before Steve sighs again.

With his eyes shut, he hums, "I know.", and pulls Bucky against his chest. James thinks he could stand there forever—having given up his sweatshirt, Steve's left standing in the thin t-shirt he'd slept in, and Bucky could still feel the heat coming off of him in droves. His scent went soft, too, less smokey and more cinnamon-y, with even a hint of that peppermint scent he'd grown to love. 

"Don't let him get under your skin, okay?" Bucky tightens his arms around Steve, "I'll handle it."

"I won't. As long as we're on the same page, we'll be fine." Steve drops a kiss at the top of his head.  

"Good." Bucky nods, not moving his face from its place against Steve's warm chest. 

Gently, Steve drops another kiss, and snakes his fingers through Bucky's silky hair. "How are you going to do it?"

Bucky grumbles, "I thought I'd have more time to flesh it all out—but I'll try to talk him down. If that doesn't work, I'll buy him out."

"What's that going to set you back?"

"Too much."

"I thought you didn't want any Wiltshire-Barnes stock?"

"Merry Christmas to my sisters, then." He sighs, "They'll finally get the shares they deserve." 

Behind them, they hear a new voice talking. This time, it's a soft, groggy, feminine voice. "Who the fuck is this? Is this him?"

The two men look at each other, and Bucky has to bite his lip to prevent his smirk. Now that their anger has fizzled away, the whole situation was a bit ridiculous, wasn't it? Bucky nods, and takes Steve's hand, "C'mon, I've gotta stop Becca before she pisses him off anymore."

A smile threatens to erupt on Steve's face, too. "That's probably a good idea." 

Becca, fresh from her slumber, is never someone you want to rile up. When they step back into the house, she's perched on the kitchen island, both legs draped in long, silky pajama bottoms, swinging back and forth, almost childlike. Her glare, however, was anything but childlike. It was lethal. And Brock, who's typically all smiles in high stakes situations, is crumbling. His eyes are darting around the room, avoiding Becca's. 

George clicks his tongue. "Are you going to say anything? Or just stare at him, and make him uncomfortable?"

She blinks, and with a dismissive sigh, frowns. "I thought he'd be taller." 

Even Winnie smiled at that. 

George seethes, "Rebecca Barnes—"

"What?" She snaps, "Are we pretending that we don't all know what's happened here? Are we pretending to be cordial, still? Fuck this guy."

"Becca," Bucky tries, but Winnifred cuts him off.

"Alright, everyone get dressed, you can all talk business after breakfast."

All the Barnes siblings snap to her, but Becca is the one who answers, "You want me to sit across the table from this fu—"

"Language." Winnie adds, "All of you, out of the kitchen."

George and Brock leave the way they'd came, through the back of the kitchen, while Winnifred made sure all her kids went the opposite way. Smart woman. They all filed up the stairs like petulant children, but Winnie grabs Bucky's arm before he can make the climb.

"James,"

Bucky doesn't answer, he only looks down at her hand gripping his forearm. 

"How's Steve?" 

"Better." He finally looks up at her. Her eyes are soft. Her eyes are rarely ever soft.

"Good." She offers a little smile. "Can you handle this?" She gestures towards his father's study. 

"Yes." He says, without hesitation.

"If it threatens to get between you and Steve, I don't want to hear anything of it."

"Ma—"

"Do you understand?" She insists. "You're happy. I want to see you happy. If it's too much of a strain on you two, we will just have to handle things ourselves."

"It won't be." He nods, "I can handle it."

"Good." 


 

Bucky and Steve are the last ones down for breakfast. 

Just how on earth Winnie managed to whip out a full breakfast for seven people in a half hour was way beyond Steve's understanding, but his hate for Brock was pushed down by his appetite once he saw the spread across the dining table. There are fruits and pastries, and carafes of orange juice and pots of coffee and Steve honestly thinks that it looks like a prop table from a goddamned movie. 

Bucky makes a little sound as he notices the seating arrangements. His parents took either head of the table. Brock had placed himself beside George, and Becca had taken the other side, across from him. Sabrina took one for the time and sat beside the devil at the table, and Steve had taken the seat beside Winnie, across from Sab. That left Bucky with the chair between Steve and Becca. Smack-dab in the middle.

He hated thishis brain was flipping from home-mode to work-mode at a pace he couldn't keep up with. He needed the edge of his work-mode with the grace of his home-mode. Unfortunately, he got neither. Just the indecisiveness of both.

Things are quiet for the first few minutes, save everyone asking for something on the table to be passed to them, but Bucky could feel Becca heating up beside him. He felt it toobreaking bread with someone who wanted to tear their family apart from the inside was definitely putting a strain on the Barnes kids. 

"I'm sorry," Becca says, "I don't think I can do this." 

Brock quickly responds, "Maybe I should go?"

"Yeah, maybe you should." Steve grits out. 

"No." Bucky says, his voice strong and even. Everyone glances up at him, but he doesn't look at them. He just takes a sip of his coffee. 

"No?" Rumlow asks, his voice laced with interest. It makes Steve want to punch him.

"No." Bucky repeats, feeling a lot more like himself now. He likes seeing his competition underestimate him. "Sit. Enjoy your meal." 

Becca's eyebrows go up. "You're serious?"

"Yes." Bucky's lip hints at a smirk, "Our father invited him here for a reason. Let him at least get a decent meal out of us before we send him back to Fury." 

George frowns, "James—"

"Is that how you see this ending?" Brock scoffs.

"Do you see this ending differently?" Sabrina grins, "Oh honey, you are not handsome enough to be this naive."

"Rebecca" George snaps, but she and Bucky are off, a vicious tag-team that no one at the table saw coming.

"It's never stopped him before." 

"I was handsome enough for you to enjoy." Rumlow glares.

Steve thinks he sees Winnie's jaw drop, but not before Bucky got his retort in, "What can I say, I had a bit of a drought."

"I thought we were going to keep things professional?" Brock grins, thoroughly enjoying himself, "Can't help yourself, can you?"

"You know what, Brock? I don't think I can." Bucky tilts his head a little, observing his ex. He feels Steve's hand on his thigh, but keeps going. "You can't seem to help yourself, either, though."

"What can I say?"

"Nothing. You can say nothing, and it would be infinitely better than anything that's going to come out of your mouth." Becca sighs.

Brocks eyes settle on Steve, at the comfort he's trying to offer, his scent spikes right after. "You two sure didn't waste any time."

"That's enough," Steve offers, not wanting to get riled up again. 

"How's Danvers doing, Steve?" Brock narrows his eyes. "Or should I be asking James that question?"

"You do realize that everyone at this table is merely tolerating you, right?" Becca furrows her eyebrows at him.

Brock sits back in his chair and smiles, "Berate me all you want, princess, I think I'm the one holding the better hand, here." 

"Are you, though?" Bucky asks, but is more of a statement. The grin slowly slips off of Rumlow's face.

"Oh, look at that, Bug." Becca nudges her brother. "A seed of self-doubt, beautifully sown."

"Did you want to do this here? At the table?" Bucky arches an eyebrow at him. 

"No—" He glances at Winnifred's disapproving glance, clearly doubting himself now. "Of course not—"

"Fine," Bucky ignores him. "Well let's go ahead and get this out of the way: I don't take meetings, I set them; but you both have taken that option away from me, haven't you?"

"James—"

"I'm talking to your son-by-proxy." Bucky straightens his posture and clears his throat. "Here's how this goes: I'm willing to bet that whatever services you rendered my father were probably less-than-legal. I also know that he's a lot of things, but negligent isn't one of them. He's got his ass covered. Have you got yours?"

"I am a lawyer" Brock rolls his eyes. 

Becca snorts, "Not a very good one." 

"Look." George says, finally loud enough for everyone to stop and look at him. His jaw flexes before he quietly adds, "He's got tapes." 

That changes everything. Everyone at the table lets out a breath—except  Brock and Bucky. See, to everyone else, it put things into perspective. The hostility, the shame, the stupid, overzealous stakes, it all made sense if Brock held something incriminating over George's head. George knew that, Brock knew that, and deep down inside, Bucky knew that, too. 

"And?" Bucky asks quietly.

They all look at him. Brock is bewildered that his trump card is being so easily dismissed; Steve and the others are a bit confused; and George relaxes his shoulders now that all of his cards are on the table.

"Alright. I'll bite. What is it you want?" Buck leans forward. "Shares of Wiltshire-Barnes are off the table. Any sort of compromise that even keeps you near Wiltshire-Barnes is off the table."

"See," Brock chuckles, "That sounds a whole lot like a threat is coming along."

"Brock," Bucky sighs, "If you're unreasonable here, I will tie your firm up in so much litigation that Nick will let you go without batting his eye. If you try a civil suit against my father—well, there's a reason you stick to finance law, isn't there? If you haven't accepted it yet, let me spell it out for you: I'm not emotionally inclined to protect either of you, so if you decide to use those tapes, I'll make damn sure that you both sit with larceny charges. That's not a threat. It's a promise."

Silence covers all seven of them; but it only made one of them stir. Bucky watches Brock shift in his seat, before he swallows, and nods down at his plate. George sat back in his seat, either awed or jealous, Bucky had no clue, but he also didn't care. He was focused on Brock. He still had that inkling at the back of his head telling him to wipe the floor with his face—but he also knew that tearing him apart this way would be much more satisfying.

Exhileration was coming off of Steve so strongly that it made Bucky almost shiver. His alpha's pride put him on a high he didn't know he needed until just then.

"The shares he offered you are worth what? One and a half? Two million?" Bucky shrugs. "If you'll sign a nondisclosure agreement, turn over those tapes of yours, and agree to some separation terms, I can offer you three." 

"Three million dollars?" George barks. 

"Three million dollars for your two million dollar mistake." Bucky snaps at him, then looks at Brock again. "Take it or leave it." 

After a minute, Brock grates out, "Don't see much of a choice, there, Buck." 

"Good." Bucky drops his napkin on the table and stands, "Let's get the paperwork drawn up, so you can get the hell out of our house." 


 

Chapter Text


Light shone through the giant bay windows of George Barnes’ office, but it didn’t reach the people inside. No, the cool light coming through the sheer curtains did nothing to illuminate the dark expressions on the two men sat in negotiations.

Steve had opposed said negotiations. He'd vehemently opposed allowing his omega anywhere near that Brock Rumlow, but you know Bucky. A few reassuring smiles and a promise to walk away if things got too heated was all it took for his alpha to compromise—if you could even call it a compromise, he was still pacing around in the hall just beyond the door. For a moment, Bucky thinks things are finally going his way. He’d handled this—and he’d handled it well. No tears, no bloodshed; just sharp words and sharper assurances. He let his emotions run a bit high through the whole fiasco—but he was levelheaded now. He’d drafted up the NDA, and is watching Brock nitpick each line.

“That too?” Brock grumbles. “Well that’s hardly fair.”

“Well that’s hardly my problem.” Bucky responds.

Brock tilts his head up gently, peering up at him. For a moment—just a moment—Bucky remembers what he’d looked like when he first met him. A young, eager to prove himself alpha, bright-eyed and ready to take on the worst that Nicholas Fury could throw at him. And he did—well enough that he’d bumped up to junior associate in no time. Just not nearly as quickly as James did. That had always sat wrong with him; he never said so outright, but the implication was always clear to Bucky. He envied his success, but Bucky had swallowed the red flags because he was handsome and available.

Brock was a lot of things—bitter and broken amongst a lot of things—but just then, he was looking more and more like the version of himself that Bucky had fallen for. Soft hair and hard eyes, focused on the task in front of him. Something about them felt safe—something harmless and disposable lingered in their distance just as much as it did in their closeness—and for some reason, Bucky knew he’d miss it.

He’d miss the security that came in the insecurity. He’d miss having the option of walking away—then having the option to return whenever he wanted to, no questions, no inquiries, just intimacy whenever he needed it. Steve—Steve was different. Steve was a constant, although his assurances meant the world, Bucky couldn’t shake the feeling; he was going to piss him off somehow, and when Steve left, it would be for good.

And that would break him far worse than Brock's fists ever could.

That idea sat in his stomach like a stone; and he recalls how he’d felt earlier that morning, how Steve’s angry eyes and harsh tone had shaken him more than anyone—even his father. It would hurt when he left. It would hurt something serious.

“Right. I guess we’re done here.” Brock scribbles his signature on the last page, and slides it across the giant desk. “Guess I’m out of your hair, for good this time, huh?”

“I guess so.”

Brock sighs, a great, big, almost repentant sigh. “Can I tell you something?”

Bucky slides the packet of papers together, but nods.

“I won’t lie—I won’t pretend I did this for you.” He says gently. “It was definitely me, being me, being selfish, but Buck? I did see you and I in the end.”

Bucky scoffs, and Brock only shrugs.

“I’ve got no reason to lie now. I saw your father as a way back to you—I just happened to get a piece of the pie on the way there. Jesus, Buck, what I saw there, it’s insane—and when you’ve worked as hard as I have for so long, the temptation was too much. It made me greedy—too greedy.”

Bucky narrows his eyes at him. “You were greedy before.”

Brock grins, “Yeah, and if I remember correctly, you liked it.”

Bucky looks away—he couldn’t look at him, at that little smile of his, at the safe familiarity of him.

“See, thats the difference between Steve and I—“

“I can think of a few more differences.”

“Alright, smart-ass.” Brock snaps, “I meant, I can admit I’m no good. I can tell you, in complete honesty, that I don’t deserve you. He’ll never be that fair with you, I want you to know that.”

That—that makes Bucky’s heart stop—because he’d wanted to say that to himself for weeks now, but he couldn’t form it into words. All of his doubts, all of his fears came crashing down around him at once, but he wouldn’t let it all fall in front of Brock. So he takes a breath and shoves it all down—instead, his voice got rough and his eyes narrows down.

Fair? What the hell is that supposed to mean?”

“Look,” He rises, “My cab should be here,”

“No,” Bucky gets up as well, and follows him to the door, slapping his hand on it before Brock can get to the handle. “Tell me.”

Brock sighs, and whispers, “I just don’t think that he’s who you he is. Think about it, Buck. When did he start seeing you? Right after the merger. I think—“ he pauses, “I think theres a reason you used to hate him.”

“What the hell does that mean, Brock?” Bucky folds his arms across his chest. “Is there something you need to tell me?”

“Look,” He scoffs, that little smirk still there, “He’s not just some pretty boy from Brooklyn. He’s fought tooth and nail just like the rest of us. You know how this game works—sometimes you make sacrifices to your ethics to get where you need to be. I did it. You did it. Everyone’s done it. I just don't want to be the one that has to tell you 'I told you so'.”

Bucky only glares at him.

“Let’s just say,” He huffs, “Steve and I run in more of the same circles than you’d like to imagine.”

The two men look at each other for a long moment, but Bucky's jaw tightens, and he nods, "You're right. Your cab should be here."



  

Brock left.

Things only got worse from there.

Doubt hung in Bucky’s mind like a damp blanket over a flame—when he looked out at his lover, at his alpha, he wasn’t feeling butterflies like he normally did. No, instead he felt an uneasy sloshing, like there were snakes slithering around in his gut, threatening to burst out.

Steve was beaming—bright and happy like he normally was. Pride plastered itself across his face in wide smiles and crinkly eyes, and that made Bucky feel good. What wouldn’t feel good, was the moment Steve realized Bucky had started taking steps away from him. Not that he wanted to be retreating—it was just what he did when he felt cornered, he got away before anyone could get his back against a wall. 

And Steve caught on quickly, because that afternoon, moments after Brock had climbed into a cab and driven out of their lives indefinitely, Bucky had a bit of a break. He’d simply looked over at his bright eyed lover and frowned out, “We’re leaving.

Steve protested, of course, but Bucky had already made the decision. He couldn’t stay there, with his parents and his siblings any longer. He’d handled their problem, but he wouldn’t be able to handle what came next. The empty stares and muted gratuity; the Barnes' weren’t capable of expressing their thanks outwardly—not in any meaningful way, at least. He could expect a check tomorrow morning, one with entirely and unnecessarily too many zeros, and well, he didn't want that. Nor did he want Steve to think any less of his family. 

They all took Bucky and Steve's abrupt departure with varying levels of acceptance.

"I get it," Becca had offered him a little smile, "I don't think I could stay if I were you, either." 

The others were less enthusiastic. From the looks of it, Sabrina considered crying—Bucky never could say no to Sabrina in hysterics—but Becca had taken her hand and squeezed it tight, and just like that, she knew. This was more than just breakfast's shit-show. So, she frowned, but she let him go. Winnifred was the most upset. She'd pulled Bucky away, intending to scold him, but the second they stepped into the kitchen, she scented him. Bucky doesn't know what she smelled there, but it must not have been great, because he didn't even bother yelling. She only looked at him with a little pitying smile and told him that she understood.

George, oddly enough, was the most upset about their abrupt leaving. "Oh, come on! On Christmas Eve?" He'd postured in a great, big, friendly voice. "You boys should be around family."

It took every ounce of both of their self-control to prevent anymore bloodshed, but they successfully packed up and started the drive back to Brooklyn. It was quiet, for the most part, save the little buzz of the radio offering Christmas carols. After about a half-hour Bucky got too antsy.

"I'm sorry if none of that made sense to you," He blubbers, "I just—I couldn't stay."

"Hey," Steve nods, pulling the back of Buck's hand to his lips, "I trust you. If you didn't want to stay, we didn't have to stay." 

Bucky closes his eyes. Maybe he was just being paranoid. Maybe he was harping too much on Brock's words, but all of a sudden, he didn't feel love coming from Steve, and it's the most disorienting thing he thinks he's ever felt. Here was someone he'd grown to love more than anyone else in the world—how on earth did a five-minute conversation with his ex manage to screw things up so quickly?

He almost doesn't ask, because frankly, the answer scares him more, but gently, he whispers, "Steve, why did you choose me?"

Steve chuckles, "What do you mean?"

"After the merger." He nods, "Why'd you ask me on that date?" 

"You want the whole truth?" 

That made Bucky's fucking heart stop, but he manages to nod. 

"I told you. I'd had eyes for you for a long time. I thought your bickering was...flirting. And then you were nice to me—about the Danvers account. No one's nice, not in our line of work. You didn't try to fuck me over, and that—well Buck, that's when I realized why I'd been drawn to you. Because you aren't like everyone else. You don't walk around scowling all day. You aren't always bitter and angry. You're you—happy and kind, but cutthroat when you ought to be. It's impressive. And attractive."

Well, that made him feel a little better.

"I see."

"You see?" Steve teases. 

"Yeah, I see." He relaxes against the leather seat, "I guess Brock just got in my head a little."

"What?" Steve's scent shifts. It had been soft—pine and peppermint—still on his high from earlier, but the moment Bucky mentioned Brock's name, it went dark. Then, in that authoritative voice, he quietly says,  "I told  you not to go in there alone with him." 

"I know, but I didn't have much of a choice." 

"Well, what did he say?"

Bucky frowns, but shakes his head, “It doesn't matter anymore,"

"Of course it does!" Steve growls, his fists gripping the wheel tighter. "Why else would you ask me why I chose you? If he's making you doubt us then yes, it does matter, Buck." 

"I didn't say I was doubting us." Bucky pauses. "Should I be doubting us?" 

"Buck," Steve whispers, and his voice is so low, Bucky can't help but look over at him. He closes his eyes for a second, then refocuses on the road. "I don't want to do this. I don't want to fight." 

For a minute, Bucky's a bit confused. Brock infuriated them both, but it was all over now. Steve's sudden anger seemed misplaced, like it was covering something. He furrows his eyebrows and considers the thought. Just then, Bucky's phone chimes. He doesn't look away from Steve, at first, but then it chimes again. Then again. Then again

"Is that him?" Steve's voice is rough, and jealousy became so obvious in the air that it was stifling. 

"No," Bucky answers and fetches the device. Messages were pouring in so fast that his phone froze. The last thing he saw before the screen went black, was Sharon's name at the top. Of course Sharon would manage to pop up as soon as he and Steve had their first argument. She probably wanted to know how things were going, and boy would he have a story for her tonight. 

"Well?" Steve presses, and for some reason, that sets Bucky's temper off. 

"Sorry, do I need to tell you who's texting me, now?" 

"James—"

"No, Steve," He folds his arms across his chest, and arches an eyebrow, "What, am I property now?  You ask, I answer?"

"I didn't say that." He answers, then takes a breath. "Fuck, I'm sorry. I just—Having Rumlow so close to you had me on edge. I just hate the idea that something he said could make you question us like that." 

Bucky pauses. Brock always was a great gas-lighter. He was as manipulative as he was handsome, and for a moment, things felt better. He looked over at Steve—at that beautiful jaw and those bright blue eyes and remembered that Steve was his, and Brock and his deceptive words wouldn't change that. Steve loved him—enough to put up with his lunatic sisters, and his demented father, and that was way more than he'd gotten from anyone else. 

His phone buzzes in his hand again, finally having loaded all of the messages he'd gotten. Sharon had called thirteen times in the last minute.

"I think something might be wrong." Bucky murmurs, opening his message threads. There were a few from Clint, too, but the majority came from Sharon. The last one says, Whatever you do, don't tell Steve. 

Bucky felt his heart drop. 

In an instant, he's got her line ringing. When she answers, he can hear the clicking of her heels on a sidewalk. "Buck, are you still in the Hamptons?"

"We're on our way back to Brooklyn. Long story. Is everything alright?" 

"Are you with Steve?" 

"Yes, he's driving." 

"Alright, look." She says firmly—uncharacteristically firmly. Her voice is so stern, Bucky shifts in his seat. "I need you to get away from him for a minute."

"Sher, we're on the beltway, I can't exactly step outside." 

"James, listen to me, this is really important—" 

"Sharon, honey, I've had a bit of a morning. What the hell is going on? Spit it out." 

"I can't, not over the phone." She huffs, "How fast can you get to Midtown?" 

"Um," He looks up at the road signs, "It's going to be a minute. You're scaring me. What the fuck is happening?"

She takes a quick breath and then says carefully, "Carol Danvers was just indicted. Criminal charges." 

Bucky froze. For a good ten seconds, he said nothing. He just sat still, staring at the dash. Slowly, everything started crumbling around him. "What?"

"I said—"

"No, I heard what you said." He snaps. "On—on what charges?" 

"Grand larceny. Insider trading." 

It went unsaid. Sharon wouldn't say it, of course, but she also didn't need to say it. Her 'don't tell Steve' text made a whole lot of sense now. They both knew exactly what had happened there. It had been a textbook bait-and-switch.

"Clint is setting up a team to start looking into her options. He needs us to look through the account history, start making sense of this shit—"

"I can't—How the hell did that happen?"

"I don't know. They've got evidence—evidence they apparently subpoenaed, and someone on the merger team gave over, no questions asked."  She pauses, and Bucky hears a door open, "Everyone's so fuckin' exhausted from all the paperwork, I doubt they'll even remember giving it up. Hell, I could have sent them over, I wouldn't remember." 

"Sher—"

"Look, I know you're on vacation, and I know it's Christmas Eve, and I know it's not my place, but we have to at least entertain the idea that he may have had something to do with this. So don't ask him anything, don't tell him anything. The last thing we need is any further conflict of interest. Just excuse yourself from whatever is happening, and let's sort this through."

“Sharon, I don’t—“

“Don’t overthink it. He very well could have had nothing to do with it.”

Heat surfaced in his face. “Really? Really?” 

“Just take a breath, Buck. Don’t do anything you’ll regret, do you hear me?”

Bucky felt like time was standing still. He couldn't believe it, but he still heard it echoing through his head—Steve had set him up. He looks over at him for a moment, and then breathes into phone, "Don't start without me. I'll be there in an hour." 

"Is Sharon alright?" Steve asks, concern thick in his voice. "Is it a client?"

"Stop the car, Steve." 

"What?"

"Stop the fucking car." 

"Buck, I can't just—" He doesn't finish his sentence—one glance at Bucky was enough to tell him that his omega was deathly serious, and that if he wanted to live through the following conversation, he'd need to stop the car.  As soon as it was permissible, he pulled off onto the side of the road. He quickly shifts the car into park and looks over at him, "What the hell is going on, Buck?" 

He's quiet for another long moment, but when he does speak, his voice is soft, but solid. His fingers tighten around his phone. "Why did you give me the Danvers account?" 

"What?"

The confusion on Steve's face only made Bucky angrier.

"Carol Danvers. Why did you give her up?"

"I—I told you?" He says carefully, and furrows his brows. "My oversight board started cutting my workload." 

"Yeah, that's what you said." He breathes, and slips his fingers into his hair, cradling his head. He could feel his temper bubbling faster with each lie. "That's what you said." 

"Yeah, because that's what happened?"

"Steven, don't lie to me. For the love of God, don't fucking lie to me." 

"Steven?" He lets out a little scoff, "Alright, Buck, what the hell is going on?" 

His voice comes out loud, much louder than he'd meant to, but he couldn't prevent it, even if he tried. His blood is boiling, and Steve was apparently the appropriate target for his rage. "Carol Danvers was just formally accused of insider trading."

"What?" 

"—And Barton & Barnes took over her finances and became her legal team less than a month ago, at your prompting—"

Quickly, he sees where Bucky's thinking was, and leaps to interrupt him, "Look, Buck, I had no idea—"

"—And if you knowingly gave me her account that was going to fucking implode, I swear to God, Steve—"

"—I didn't! I didn't know!" He yells, trying to get Bucky's attention—but the omega is too far into his own anger now. Steve tries to reach out and take his hands, tries to calm him down, but he snatches them away.

"Don't touch me." He spits out, like it burned him to say. In a way, he supposes it did.

Their eyes finally meet. Steve's are full of concern and confusion, but Bucky, he was beyond that. He was gone. His eyes were cold, sterile, completely devoid of his normal charm.

He was done.

And for probably the first time in the entire time he's known him, Bucky thinks, Brock was right

Every spare inch of Bucky's understanding had been used up—he had absolutely no room to deal with this, at least not amicably. And although he didn't want to admit it, the look on Steve's face, what he perceived as him willfully being dense, it broke his heart into tiny fucing pieces. 

Bucky was always prepared to be disappointed. His entire life taught him that it was inevitable—a gnarly fact of life—but he hadn't prepared to be hurt. Really, truly, and honestly hurt. He felt his eyes begin to well up with tears. 

He whispers, "I don't believe you."

"Buck," Steve calls, but Bucky swings his car door open and hops out. "What the hell, where are you going?" 

"Midtown." 

"What, are you going to walk?" Steve yells, "Get back in the car, let me explain!"

"Oh, let you explain? Fuck off, Steve." He shuffles his backpack out through the back seat. "I'll get a cab."

"On the fucking Beltway? Bucky, come on—"

"No, Steve." Bucky yells, his anger having peaked now. His body is so tense, he's almost shaking. "No! You don't get to just smile and wave your fucking hands and make all this go away!"

"I'm not trying to—"

"This is my entire life, this is my career, Steve! Nothing you say right now makes any of this better, do you not understand that? I have never—ever—had a client face criminal charges in court, ever! If she doesn’t settle, that’s my credibility gone. Almost ten years of hard work, and for what to be screwed over by—“ 

He doesn't finish his sentence. He was going to say someone I love, but his lips had formed to say someone I loved. He didn't have to heart to admit that now, though. He could feel the stress on their bond—and everything within him wanted to get back into the car and listen to Steve—but he had responsibilities, to Clint, to Barton & Barnes, and to himself. A partner wasn't supposed to get between him and his career. Steve wasn't supposed to get between him and his career. 

"You can't really think I would have done this on purpose?" Steve whispers, as if he was the one being betrayed here.

"Then look me in the eye and tell me you didn’t.” Bucky snaps, “Come on, then,  tell me you had absolutely nothing to do with this."

Steve opens his mouth to respond, but nothing comes out. And that? That did more than a confession ever could. Bucky doesn’t look at him again. He just slings his backpack on and starts up the shoulder of the road. Steve may have called out to him, but Bucky wouldn’t know. He wasn’t listening anymore. All he could hear was Brock’s stupid, grating voice in his head, “I told you so.”

 


 

 

Eventually, he did get to Baron & Barnes. He'd gotten a cab at a seedy rest stop. In any other situation, it would have been a terribly dangerous idea, but considering how angry he was, getting back into Steve's car would have definitely been more dangerous." 

Sharon, Clint and what Bucky assumed was the investigatory task force were in the lobby when he arrived. Sharon spotted him first, and she had this uncanny ability to gauge Bucky's mood just by taking a good look at him—so with one good look at his erect, faultless posture, and the look of stone on his face, she'd raised the staff to Defcon one, immediately. 

None of them spoke, not even Clint, who was infamous for always having something to say, especially at the very worst moments to say something. Instead, they stared sheepishly as he approached, and parted swiftly to let him through. He walked straight through them like he hadn't even seen them—which might as well have been the case. He was still so angry that he wasn't seeing or thinking right. 

He made it to his office, then his en suite, and quickly stripped out of his clothes. They smelled like him, his scent, his car, their bed; so he abandoned them in the corner of the room with a strange sort of reverence. He didn’t fold them, that was too respectful; but he didn’t just toss them there, either, that paid no homage to the time they’d had together. So, he dropped them there, soft white sweater atop jeans, gently discarded.

In their place, he’d put on his gray suit that he kept in the office. His favorite gray suit. In part, because he thought it would work its magic powers and make him feel better, that it would somehow dredge his head out of the depths of self-loathing it’d fallen into, and sew it back onto his body in time to handle things effectively. 

It didn't. 

So the scowl stayed on his face long after he'd settled in at his desk. It only wavered—and even then, only slightly—when Sharon came through the doors with two mugs balanced deftly in her left hand, and a pile of files in the other. 

"I've got copies of the items they subpoenaed." She says gently, then with a soft smile. "And some coffee." 

He only nods. 

"I'm guessing you don't want to talk to him." She hums, "He keeps calling." 

"I don't."

"I told you not to tell him anything—"

"Bridge burned, Sher." He takes a deep breath. 

"What if that was a mistake? What if he's not responsible for any of this?" 

He glances up at her, and the look in his eye said it all: Shut up, Sharon. But Sharon didn't listen to anyone, ever, and she wouldn't start then. 

"He could have been kept in the dark—maybe this is why his board was cutting his cases?" 

"Well, then, it's my fault for vetting her well enough." 

"It's not your fault." She whispers, setting the files down. "You do know that it isn't your fault, right? Nobody blames you."

"I blame me." He sighs, taking the first file off of the pile and flipping it open in front of him. "Of course this is my fault."

"You couldn't have known—" 

"I bought his bullshit," He cuts her off, and his voice is so sharp and angry that Sharon recoils slightly.

"No—"

"I did. Then I had sex with him—like a fucking idiot." He murmurs the last bit with a strange feeling a disgust with himself. Not only was he an idiot, but he was a bit of a slag, too. It left a sour taste in his mouth.

"You two bonded," She argues.

"Anyone can bond." He snaps, "Highschoolers bond every six weeks. It doesn't fucking mean anything. I'm just glad I didn't let him mark me."

"Then why couldn't you break it, hm?" She folds her arms across her chest. "If it doesn't mean anything, why'd you take him home to meet your family?"

"Sorry, when did this become an inquisition?" He snaps the file down. "Whose fucking side are you on here, Sher?" 

"I'm not on anyone's side—" 

"Wrong answer," He points at his chest, "My side. It's always my side, Sher." 

"Bucky—"

"Someone has got to be on my side." His temper flares again, and his voice gets louder. "I can't—I can't just keep fucking losing people, Sher. I can't keep getting used to people and then losing them. It's not fair." 

"James—" Her voice is a warning, but he doesn't stop.

"I'm sick and tired of people acting like I can't understand what's happening around me. I'm an omega, not a fucking dunce. You are the last person I need turning on me, Sher. If Steve can win me over and then literally fuck me over, I don't even want to imagine what you're capable of." 

"Look," She shouts over him. "I get it—there's a lot happening right now, but if you ever question my loyalty again, I will set this goddamned building on fire." 

He sits back and stares at her for a second.

"I'm not turning on you, and I'm not going anywhere." She glares. "None of us are. We're going to figure this all out, and then handle things as they become necessary, alright?" 

"Right." He clears his throat. "I'm sorry."

"I know." She says, gentler this time, then gives him a sympathetic look. "It's a lot, but you've got it covered. Don't be so hard on yourself. You can handle this, just like you've handled everything else. I'll be in the conference room down the hall with the interns. I'll be back in a few hours, after you've caught up—and calmed down."

"I'm sorry," He repeats, watching her set one of the coffee mugs down in front of him. 

"I know, Bug." She hums, "Take your time."

She disappears down the hall in a swish of soft skirts and the click of her heels, and Bucky slumps over the mug as soon as she's gone. He felt like his temper had been a yard stick against his spine—keeping him together and tall thus far; and snapping at Sharon had yanked it away. He didn't deserve her. He didn't deserve most of the good things in his life, but he definitely didn't deserve Sharon. 

A broken bit of a sob comes out, and at first, he tries to shove it back down where it came from. Bucky didn't cry—he couldn't remember the last time he'd cried—but this frustration felt like a cobwebby veil had been tossed over his head, and he was struggling to see, struggling to breathe, struggling to understand what was happening to him. He couldn't tell which direction was up, and as someone who always had a plan for every contingency, it infuriated him.

His mind drifted to Steve—would he be as upset as he was? Did he feel as directionless? Did anything they'd shared mean anything to him? Or was this just his designation getting between him and his pride again? That was probably the case. Steve was an alpha—he had probably gone out for a few drinks and gotten over it all already. Maybe he'd already found another brown-haired boy to replace him. Men like Steve, with a smile and a set of shoulders like his, could compliment their way into bedrooms easily. It made him Bucky a bit nauseous, because that was exactly what Steve had done to him, wasn't it? A few more frustrated sounds escaped him, only to be interrupted by the sound of his phone dinging. 

It wasn't Steve—he'd already blocked his number. When he glances down at the screen, the time strikes him first—12:11. Then, the message displayed when he unlocked the phone. 

Brock Rumlow (Fury & Co.): Merry Christmas, Buck.

Chapter Text


 

No one at Rogers & Co. wanted to get in Steve Rogers' way when he got like this. 

Steve had a reputation as this coy, bright-eyed guy who could smile his way out of any bad deal; but the people at his firm knew that was only true for a portion of time. When things like this happened, when things got in the way of what he wanted, what he needed, he was a lot less amicable. 

He became short, his patience had been sucked dry. He didn't smile when he asked for things. He didn't greet people as they came—he didn't even answer when people called.  He could only focus on his task, and right now, his task was finding out just how the hell he'd fucked up this badly. 

Insistent on getting to the bottom of things, he's spend the entire night at his desk, digging through Carol Danver's personnel files, her account files, everything. He was exhausted, and he looked the part, too, but shutting his eyes offered no respite. His head felt heavy, and everytime he shut his eyes, he was flooded with images of his omega—but never quite right. The turn of a hip, here. The roundness of his lips, there. Bits and pieces came to him, driving him crazy.  God, there was nothing he wanted more right then than to see Bucky's face.

Even if he was angry. Even if he didn't want anything to do with him ever again.

Their parting had been so abrupt, so sudden, that Steve felt like he couldn't even remember how it all went. Still, he wanted nothing more than to see Bucky's face, the curve of his cheeks, the wisps of his hair that would fall in his face—he wanted to see his omega one more time, to immortalize that image in his mind. That would be enough fuel to help him sort this through, then he could go back to seeing him everyday, for the rest of their lives.

Sam came into his office at around five that morning, a gruff look on his face. He didn't want to be there—hell, none of them wanted to be there, besides Steve. Steve couldn't be anywhere else. The only other place he wanted to be was with Buck, but he was auto-sending all of his calls to voicemail. He had half a mind to go down there and just make him listen—

"There better be a good fucking reason you pulled me out of my bed before the fucking sun." Sam says, plopping down into the seat across from him. 

"Relax. I know you were awake. They probably called Riley in this morning, too." Steve grumbles back, "Listen, I need your help—"

"Wrong. Riley didn't even get to bed. They called him in last night." Sam arches an eyebrow, and with a huff, leans forward on his knees, "Steve, you don't look so good."

"No, I don't." He breathes, his temper feeling like a patch of smoldering coals waiting for that splash of kerosene. "I don't feel good either; doesn't matter." 

"Is this about Danvers?" He sits back, "Don't sweat it, Steve. She's out on bail She's already home with her family." 

"Tell me what happened?" Steve leans forward. "No one seems to have the whole story."

"There was a whistleblower." He shrugged. "She's been doing shady shit for years now, it just happened to catch up with her." 

Steve closes his eyes tight, again assaulted by the image of Bucky's smile, so he quickly reopens them and glares at Sam. "Sam, I think I fucked up." 

"Yeah, buddy." He cocks that eyebrow again, "I can tell. What happened?" 

"I gave Bucky Danver's account." He blinks, watching Sam piece it all together. "Now, he thinks—"

"Yeah, I can imagine what he thinks." Sam snaps. "Why the hell would you do that? You know how she operates!"

"She said she'd been clean since the Laufeyson deal." Steve argues, but it didn't make him feel better. "That's six years she hadn't done anything illicit. I thought she was done—she said she'd just pulled some favors to get her where she was. She buried it all, Sam. I don't know how anyone could have found it."

"That's well past the statute of limitations. Whatever she's done this time, she's done it recently." Sam catches his forehead in his palm. "Goddamn it Steve." 

"I know." He whispers, "It's only barely expired. If she's out on bail, I need to speak with her. She's got to know who would have it out for her like this." 

"No." Sam folds his arms across his chest. "You are shit out of luck—Hill already did that. She's the one who went downtown to post Carol's bail in the first place. She has no fuckin' clue who's responsible." 

"Well there must be something—is the whistleblower not named in the indictment?" 

"It's sealed." Sam shrugs, "Whoever it is, they must have a bit of pull with the DA. They've been kept off the official record." 

"How's that even possible?" Steve groans. 

"My guess is, they've got dirt on more than just Danvers." He rises out of the chair, "I think we'll end up seeing a lot more indictments in the coming months."

"Where are you going?" 

"To get dressed." He groans. "Your boyfriend is holding my boyfriend hostage. Plus, they've asked to see a representative from the firm."

"What? No one told me. Let me go—"

"As much as I'm sure you're good-intentioned and want the best for the firm," Sam frowns, "They specifically asked that someone else be sent in your stead." 

That hit Steve like a ton of bricks. Bucky didn't want to see him. 

He didn't just not want to take his calls—he didn't want to see him anymore. 

"Don't get that fuckin' look in your eyes, Steve." Sam points an accusing finger. "You do stupid shit when you get upset. I'm sure this will all calm down in a few days, and you'll be spending New Years with your Bucky in the blink of an eye." 

Sam sounded so sure, but Steve wasn't. Bucky was an entirely simple partner. He had very simple rules—do not drink his wine, do not touch the thermostat, and do not interfere with his work. Steve couldn't help but feel like everything was crashing down around him. He didn't see a version of things without Bucky. He had become everything to him, and quite frankly, the thought of going back to his apartment without Buck made him feel empty and hollow.  

The breath caught in his throat as he whispered, "I sure fucking hope so."

 


 

 

Across Midtown, Bucky knew he was dreaming, but he refused to rouse himself. The dream itself was simply too tempting.

“Please, Stevie,” He heard himself beg, a broken whisper of a sound. “Please...”

The dream came in wisps, in little patches of constructs he didn’t completely understand, yet. But he didn’t need to understand it fully—hell, he didn’t even need to see it properly to understand what was happening. He remembers it. And even if he didn’t, the overwhelming feeling of arousal was more than enough to get the message across. Lust felt thick and intoxicating in the air, but Bucky couldn’t wake himself up, not yet. He wanted to experience more of this—he wanted to remember it all in full vibrancy, because out there in reality, he knew he probably wouldn’t experience it again.

He still can’t see it, but he feels it. The snaking feeling of fingers sliding through his hair, before they clenched into a fist and yanked his head back. Deliciously painful, paired with the firm grip of the opposite hand roughly steering his hips back and forth.

“That’s it, Buck. Just like that. Fuckin’ hell.”

The sound of his voice sends a rush of feelings through him, just like it had when he’d said them out loud. God, his voice, reduced to a raspy command like that just did something to Bucky’s brain. He remembers the way his hand wrapped around his throat and forced him to listen to him.

“You hearin’ me, baby?” He rasped in his ear. “Don’t go askin’ for things you can’t handle. I don’t want you calmin’ down and getting upset.”

The sound of his own voice frightens him—he sounds completely debauched, like his body would simply combust of Steve didn’t indulge him. “Please, Stevie,” He’d begged. “Do it, mark me.”

“Oh, baby, don’t do that to me, it’s not fair,” Steve groaned, as though it were physically paining him to deny Bucky’s request. Bucky should have been the one complaining—Steve’s strokes had slowed to an agonizingly slow pace, but with every stroke forward, he manages to clip Bucky’s prostate, and it made the omega wince every time.

He remembers being so hard it hurt. How thick and full Steve made him feel. How safe he felt under him, even if he choked him, or roughed him up. Because Steve would never let anything happen to him, his lover, his boyfriend, his omega.

“Please,” He remembers having gasped. How desperate he’d felt then. Even with Steve’s hands firmly on his skin, and him buried deep inside him, he still wanted more. Omegas were greedy like that, and Bucky couldn’t help himself. Gone were his rational thoughts of abstaining from the mark. Gone were his thoughts of marriage first. He need a deep red set of perfect teeth somewhere on his body, lest he explode.

But Steve knew better. He was his alpha, after all. He knew that this wasn’t a decision to be made in the throes of passion. He knew that Bucky was just overwhelmed by hormones and pheromones—and his cock still quite literally inside of him. So he refrained from indulging his pleads; and it was the hardest thing he’d ever done.

“Pleasepleaseplease,” The words started to mesh together as Steve picked up his pace again. Bucky remembers how that desperation felt—like standing in front of a glass showcase and wanting its contents, but not having the keys. He plotted his words carefully—something he said would smash through that glass and make Steve mark him.

“Fuck,” he whines out, and his arms just gave out, dropping the front of him down to his elbows, all while Steve held a firm grasp on the back of him. The alpha slowed his strokes a bit, and leaned over him to slide Bucky’s hair out of his face.

“Too much, baby?” He whispers, but makes no move to remove himself. “Need me to stop?”

“No,” Bucky whines again. “I want—“

He stopped, the edge of a sob cutting his words off. Tears had begun to form in his eyes. He wasn’t sure why—nothing hurt, everything just felt loud and overwhelming.

“I know what you want,” Steve says calmly, and with some sort of sexual acrobatics, manages to flip Bucky’s back down onto the sheets without having to pull out.

Now that their fronts were together, Bucky felt a brand new sense of yearning. He wanted his mark like this—Steve’s broad shoulders eclipsing his, his warm body pressed against his, his cock still deep inside him. Yes, that was exactly how he wanted it.

“You want it here?” Steve whispers, running his lips over Bucky’s left collar. At the same time, he’d reared back and slammed into him again.

Bucky could only gasp, “Yes,”

“Or here?” He pushed himself up from that beautifully curved collar and settled on bit of his shoulder where his neck met his collar. His lips ran over the flesh there, then his teeth, and Bucky swears he could have come all over himself from just the thought of their mark.

“Mhm,” Bucky had moaned, rutting his hips up to feel the press of Steve’s stomach against his erection. “Anywhere, Stevie.”

“Anywhere?” Steve smiled against his skin, then slipped his hand down to cup Bucky’s cock. “What if I wanted to put it here?”

“Steeeeeeve.”

“Or here?” He ran his hand back up and rubbed his thumb over Bucky’s nipple, which made him twitch all over. “No, no. I want it where everyone’ll see it.”

Just the thought of it all made him feel like he was falling apart. He wanted that too. He wanted Steve’s mark somewhere nice and visible, so that everyone would know that he belonged to someone who didn’t give a fuck who found out that he was taken.“Yeah?”

“Oh, yeah.” Steve nuzzled against his neck, “I want it right here,” he noses just beneath Bucky’s ear, “Right fuckin’ there, so everyone’ll be able to see it.”

“Yes, Stevie,” Bucky whined again.

“But I want you ready for it, baby.” He whispers, “I want you to want it bad, not just when I’m inside you.”

“I do—“

“No, you don’t, not yet.” He hums, “N’ that’s okay, baby. I’ll still make you feel good.”

Steve nips at the flesh there, where he’d eventually bite him hard enough to scar—and just the thought of it made Bucky come so hard that his legs started shaking.

Of course, that’s when he woke up, yanked from his dream by some cruel urgency he didn’t recognize. He was still at his desk, and the sun was rising. He could see the faintest bit of snow falling outside, and just as he’d begun to think about how beautiful it was, he remembered where he was, and why he was there. He felt that familiar pang in his gut and groans. No. He couldn't be having another heat. These sort of dreamspathetic as it soundstended to come around before his heats symptomized. It shouldn't be another heatbut will all this stress, all this new, unfamiliar bond bullshit, all bets were off. He would just have to power through italthough, thinking back to the last time he'd tried to power through a heat made him woozy.

That dream, nor his apparent heat, did anything for the pain he still felt. It did nothing to quell the anger he still felt in his gut; but it did put things into perspective. Steve had become more to him than he thought he ever could. He wanted to spend the rest of his life with him, for fuck’s sake, just a few days ago, he’d considered accepting his proposal.

His chest hurt, and his mind felt foggy and disorganized—but there was one thing he was sure about. Steve didn’t get as close to him as he had accidentally. He’d grown to trust him because he’d consistently proved himself worthy of Bucky’s trust. He never pushed him, he only ever took what Bucky had given him, never anything more. He was patient and understanding, always so understanding. He’d managed to control himself—mid-rut, at that—even when Bucky had been beneath him begging for the one thing Steve wanted nothing more than to give him.

He was not the same sort of person to do something like this. His Stevie wasn’t capable of this.

The light got brighter, bringing him out of his thoughts. He must have fallen asleep sometime after four, because that was the last time he remembered looking at the clock on the wall. Fortunately, his night wasn’t misspent. He’d made considerable headway. There may be a loophole in their contract with the Rogers firm, and if it wasn’t one, Bucky was going to make it into one.

He rose to his feet, all of his joint snapping into place with various pops. One long foot in front of the other took him to the conference room where a handful of interns had fallen asleep, while a few kept diligently working. Sharon, too, was still pouring over files. A pang of guilt hit him. His mistake had kept all of these people here overnight, when they should be with their loved ones.

“You all should head home.” He says quietly, but still managed to frighten everyone.

“Sir, we haven’t finished.” One of the bright-eyed interns frowned.

“It’s Christmas morning.” Bucky said gently. “Go home. Be with your families. Send everyone home, Sharon, then head home yourself.”

He turned to leave, and of course, Sharon followed him. “Well, we both know that isn’t happening.”

“There’s nothing we can do today, anyway.” Bucky hums, shoving his hands in his pockets. “I may have found something, but I’ll need a meeting with Carol—and it’s hardly appropriate to ask her to come in today. And I’ll need to see someone from Rogers’ firm, but I doubt they’ll be able to send anyone out until tomorrow.”

“I handled that already.” She huffs, looking at her phone, “Sam Wilson will be here at eight. Danvers can take a call at four.”

Bucky stalls in the doorway to his office. “Good. Thank you.” He nods, “Then, um, send the interns home.”

“Breakfast?”

“Just some coffee, please.”

“No. I wasn’t really asking.” She hums, then spins. “I’m going to get us breakfast.”

That put a little smile on his face. “And a fresh suit, if you’ve got time.”

“Did that already. Stan’s picking up your dry cleaning.”

Bucky groans. “Stan’s here? He should be at home—“

“When are you going to realize that none of us are going to let you lock yourself up to deal with alone?” She arches an eyebrow at him, but doesn’t let him answer, “Clint will take Wilson first—they should be ready for you around quarter to eleven, alright?”

He nods gently.

“What—“ She starts but then stops. She was going to ask ‘what are you doing about Steve?’, but decided against it just before it came out. She saw the exhaustion behind his eyes, and instead nods, “Poached eggs like usually?”

“Sure,” He nods, grateful she didn’t finish her first sentence.

 


 

Sam Wilson did not look happy. And that was a far cry from his normal, goofy self, which made Bucky a little antsy. The second he saw Bucky approaching though, his face went soft. Part of that made Bucky angry, the pity it suggested, but another, bigger part of himself, was grateful for it.  Clint, too, looked unhappy, and Bucky felt a twinge of guilt again. He shoved it down, though.

“Mr. Wilson,” Bucky gruffs out, and extends his hand, “I apologize for the necessity of this meeting.”

“Barnes,” Sam nods, “It’s quite alright. I, uh, understand this is exactly the sort of situation you pride yourselves with preventing here at Barton & Barnes.”

“Exactly the sort.”

“I apologize for our part in it. Sincerely.”  He nods, “All of us do. We’re doing everything we can to rectify the situation. These sorts of oversights have unfortunately been happening all too often. We’re spread a bit thin, at the moment.”

“Is that so?.” Bucky nods, thinking he caught the hint he’d dropped.

“We’d hate for this…singularity to have a negative effect on our working relationship.” He says, a bit more plainly. “Understand that it was not an act of malice, whatsoever, and not in any way intentional. Simply an oversight on our part. We’ve got a review board in place, looking into just how it managed to slip through our fingers and into a merger.”

“We can speak plainly, Sam.” Clint says a bit harshly. “There’s no need for the formalities. None of us want to be here, so just tell him what you told me.”

Bucky freezes. Clint never spoke like that in front of business partners. He was sometimes brash, and a bit dramatic even, but never rude—at least not intentionally.

Sam takes a breath, like he was trying to find the words.  “You’re right. I’d much rather be at home. Unfortunately my fiance is also indisposed by this little situation.”

Bucky’s cheeks go red. Riley had been perched beside Sharon in the conference room all night.

“He wants to keep his job.” Clint says, all too hotly.

“Your partner here thinks Steven had something to do with this.” Sam says, “I can imagine you do, too.”

“I do.” Is all Bucky can manage.

“I can tell you with complete certainty, that he didn’t.” Sam says, completely deadpan. “I can’t quite explain any further, but I can say that he had no part in Carol Danver’s illicit activity.”

“Then why would he hand over the account so readily?” Clint snaps.

“I told you, the review board asked him to cut back his ledger.”

“So why not shift the account internally?” Bucky asks, “Why not give it to you?”

“I’ve got enough on my plate.” Sam says, his words and his face brutally honest. “And frankly, I don’t think he trusted me not to ruin it.”

Clint scoffs, “Of course.”

“Listen,” Sam takes a breath, “You don’t have to believe me, but it’s the truth.”

“Then why isn’t he here?” Bucky says, and the words hurt coming out.

Sam looks at him strangely. It had been their request that someone other than Steve take this meeting. “What?”

“Why’d they send you to mediate? Wouldn’t it make sense to send him, have him defend himself?” Bucky clarifies.

Clint gives Sam a knowing look, and it clicked together quickly. That request was made for Bucky, not by Bucky. 

“He’d be here if he could.” Sam furrows his eyebrows. “But, he can’t. And he’s doing everything he can to clear this up.”

Bucky takes a breath, “I bet.”

Sam takes a minute, as though he were considering disclosing this, then, thinking it would help, “We’re, uh, required to report to our HR department if anything changes in our marital or bonding situations. Before we broke for the holidays, Steve filed some things. He’d been removed from Barton & Barnes inquiries, to prevent any conflicts of interest.”

Clint scoffs. “That’s convenient.”

“I’m sorry—“ Bucky pauses, unsure if he understood right. “He told your HR department what, then? We were officially bonded?”

Sam sighs uncomfortably, “This is a conversation for you and Steve to have, James.”

“Well it’s far too late for that.” Bucky barks back. “You’re affianced to someone currently employed at Barton & Barnes, yet you’re here.”

“Riley isn’t named partner at Barton & Barnes.” Sam says gently. “It’s just a formality, really. He was already in hot water, he didn’t want to make things any worse. So he disclosed your relationship.”

“Right.” Bucky nods, then taps his fingers on one of the chairs at the conference table. “Well, fortunately, that’s over with now. There is no conflict of interest, because our personal interests no longer align.”

“Don’t say that,” Sam whispers, as though Bucky’s dismissal hurt him, too. “He’s—he’s trying, James. Just let him figure things out, it’ll start making sense, I promise. Don’t set him aside already.”

“He's got a hell of a lot of explaining to do, then." 

“You should see him." Sam says quietly, "He's a wreck. 'Just wants you to hear him out." 

The thought tugged on his heartstrings, hard. Well, honestly, it was more like it had tugged his heart right out of his chest, and he could see it beating on the floor. He hated the idea of hurting Steve, and maybe it was just this altered state of mind, but Bucky suddenly felt like crying. 

"We've all got responsibilities, Sam." He nods, "I've got to handle mine, first." 

“Fine. I understand.” Sam collects his things. “I’ll try to make him understand, too.”

“Take Riley home with you.” Bucky says, and turns to leave the room, “You two enjoy the rest of the holiday together.”

 


 

 

Across Midtown, Steve had been on the very edge of sane, all day. Almost everyone had left him there, besides Sam.

"If you aren't going to tell me what happened, then go home, Sam." Steve said, tapping the little button on his phone that would patch him through to his receptionist, "Pegs, get me Nicholas Fury on the phone."

Sam, sat back in the chair across from his desk, turned to face the hall and hollered out to Peggy, "Don't do that—do not bother Nick Fury on Christmas."

"Got it, Sam." Peggy called back, unenthusiastically. Steve knew that she didn't want to be here, even if she didn't complain. Sam, however, was more up-front with his disagreement. He'd mentioned, many times now, that he didn't want to be at work on Christmas—and every time, Steve told him to leave.

He hadn't though. He'd merely plopped himself down in that leather chair and looked over at Steve with a little smile on his face. It infuriated Steve.

His life was falling apart, and Sam was smiling at him. 

He grumbled to himself again, and threaded his fingers through his hair impatiently. "Is there anyone here with a copy of the indictment?" 

"Nope. Told you that already." Sam hums, "District attorney has it, but he won't be back until the new year." 

"Fucking hell," He groans, "Then there really is no reason to be here." 

"I've been telling you this all damn day." Sam smiles. "C'mon, if we leave now, I'm sure we can make dinner at my momma's." 

Steve looks up and scowls at him. "Go have Christmas dinner with your family, Sam. I'm sure Mrs. Wilson would love to have you home. And Riley, too." 

"Not leaving without you, told you that an hour ago."  Sam wiggles down into the chair a bit. "Besides, Ry's still at work anyway. I'm all yours, baby." 

"Do not guilt me into spending the holiday with you, Sam."

"M'not." He shrugs. "We can stay here if you want to—" 

"How bad is it?" He cuts him off, and Sam's eyes soften at his urgency. "You don't want to tell me what he said? Fine. Just—how bad is it?"

"It's going to be fine, once we get this sorted out, our relationship with Barton & Barnes will be fine."

"What about my relationship?" Steve asks, his eyes hopeful. 

"He's still upset." Sam sighs, "But I wouldn't say things are unsalvageable. I think he's more hurt than angry." 

Steve let his forehead hit the desk top. He felt nauseated at even the thought of hurting his omega. "I don't know how he could think I'd do something like this to him on purpose."

Sam hums, fiddling with the arm of the chair. "It doesn't seem like him, honestly. Then again, he doesn't seem like himself. Smelled like he was going into his heat, again." 

Steve turned his head to glare at his oldest friend. He knew that Sam always spoke plainly like that, but the thought of another alpha scenting his omega made him want to growl. Still, the thought of Bucky being in heat, alone, especially after his last heat, made worry settle in Steve's stomach like a stone. He could almost feel the warmth that would be coming off of him, almost smell his scent, coffee and fresh sheets. Fuck.

"It's our bond. It's strained. We hadn't consummated with a mark yet." He groans out, "I feel it too." 

"Yeah, buddy. You stink." Sam arches an eyebrow at him. "Lovesick fucking puppies, both of you." 

"Sam, I'm being serious." 

"I know, it's disgusting." He frowns. "Was I like this with Ry? Oh God. Buddy, I'm so sorry."

Steve only reaches up to throw a pen at him. Of course, Sam catches it. 

Hesitantly, Sam asks the million dollar question. "What happened in the Hamptons?" 

A long, loathsome groan comes from the blond alpha. 

"Oh. Alright." Sam huffs. "Just trying to help, bud." 

"Brock. Brock Rumlow happened in the Hamptons." He snapped. Steve could think about committing various types of homicide to that man if he let his mind run that free—but he'd much rather think about Bucky. 

"I'm listening." 

Steve sighs, trying to cut the story down to as little words as possible. "Bucky and his dad don't always get along. He tried to fuck Buck over, and pawned off Bucky's shares of Wiltshire-Barnes to Brock, who apparently was trying to win Bucky over."

Sam made a face. "So he took his shares? Hell of a way to win him back."

"Does that fuckwit ever make sense?" Steve rolled his eyes. "I almost killed him. Bucky almost killed him." 

"Sounds like you had one hell of a trip." 

"Bucky handled things well—really well. Talked Brock down to a settlement and an NDA." 

Sam's eyes shifted, "How did he take that? Being cut down to size like that?" 

"I don't know. Bucky asked me to stay out of it, so I did." 

"Do—" He stopped, like he was weighing the option of continuing or not. "Do you think he had something to do with Carol?" 

Steve furrowed his eyebrows. The thought hadn't even crossed his mind. "I—I don't think so. If the DA indicted, they had to have been investigating for a while, don't you think?" 

"Yeah, but, c'mon Steve!" Sam frowns, "Look, that was mighty fuckin' convenient timing don't you think? Rumlow gets an NDA and has no reason to bother his ex anymore, then boom, this indictment pops up and drives a wedge between you two?" 

That made entirely too much sense to Steve, now that Sam spelled it out. And Bucky had mentioned him getting in his head, hadn't he? Heat bloomed in his chest quickly, and Sam quickly tried to quell it.

"Hey, look, I'm not saying you should do anything about it—especially not right now. You aren't in any position to take him on." Sam warns, "You gotta think rationally, okay? You've got to admit, if this is the case, he's got the upper hand. He's successfully separated you two." 

Well, he refused to admit that, no matter how true it was. Bucky was across Midtown, not here, with him, with no intention to see him anytime soon, and that alone made it clear that Brock had been successful. 

"Then what do I do, then?" Steve whispers, his voice completely wrecked now. He hated the fact that he'd become so broken, so helpless, especially at the hands of someone like Brock. "He doesn't want to see me, Sam. How am I supposed to explain myself if he won't fucking see me?" 

Sam looked like he had an idea, but didn't want to spill it, yet. Steve glared at him, and so he rolled his eyes and admitted, "I...may have an idea." 

 


 

Back on the other side of Midtown, Bucky found himself dreaming again. Even though he wanted to, and even though he knew he should, he couldn't shake it. With the memories came a sort of warmth that covered him from head to toe, the feeling only Steve had ever given him. A feeling he was certain no one else ever could give him, either. 

They'd been in bed, passing the time effortlessly. Steve was laid on his stomach, propped up on his elbows, flipping through a magazine. Bucky was beside him, on his back, contently looking at him. At the sharp edge of his jaw, the pretty round turn of his bottom lip, the straight bridge of his nose. He was close enough to admire him—and Steve, enthralled in the article, had yet to notice. His shoulders, fortunately for Bucky, were exposed. All of him was exposed, really. They'd slept naked, and spent the morning moving so lazily that neither of them bothered getting dressed. 

Finally, Steve finished his reading, and noticed Bucky's lingering eyes. "Whatcha lookin' at, punk?"

A slow, sleepy smile got to Bucky. "Just somethin' pretty." 

"Something pretty?" Steve hummed, shifting to shadow over his omega. "That's crazy, I think I found something pretty to look at too."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah," His lips brushed down Bucky's collar, over his chest, "Though I'm not sure I can just look. He's reeeeally pretty."

"I don't think he minds." Bucky whispers, and feels Steve smile against his skin. 

"Good."

He's wrung from his dream by the sound of his office door opening. Sharon is in the doorway, holding a wine glass filled nearly to the top with dark red liquid. "You sleeping?" 

"No." He lies, shaking the fragments from his mind. "What's that?"

"A '97 Reisling."

"What are we celebrating?" Bucky slowly rises to his feet.

"Oh, no. We're mourning." She corrects him, and motions for him to follow her. "Mourning an entire Christmas day spent working."

The make their way down the empty corridor to the conference room. It's been cleaned up—all of the boxes have been relocated to the corner, with folders of filed shoved in them. A spread of Chinese take-away containers are on the giant mahogany table. Clint is at the head of the table with his feet kicked up in a chair, and a few noodles hanging out of his mouth.

"Did you wake him up?" Clint glares at Sharon. "You should have let him sleep."

"So you could finish all the dumplings without us?" She grumbles, and knocks his feet out of her chair. 

Bucky settled across from her, with a solemn smile on his face. He couldn't shake Steve from his thoughts. It seemed like his friends read his mind, or maybe just his scent, and quickly started talking. 

"You know the worst part about this?" Clint said, stabbing his carton of lo mein with his chopsticks. "We've been here before."

Bucky narrows his eyes, "No, we haven't." 

"I didn't mean Danvers, dummy." The older alpha rolls his eyes. "I meant here, the three of us. Salty take out. On Christmas." 

Bucky frowned, but couldn't place the memory. He hadn't spent very many Christmases like most people did. He didn't swarm to his family. As a matter of fact, he spent last Christmas at home, with Brock. Neither of them had acknowledged the holiday with anymore than with the little gifts they'd gotten one another. 

"You know what," Sharon points her chopsticks at him, "I do remember that—God, it's so vague. That was so long ago." 

"Bucky was all fresh-faced and quiet." Clint grins. "Remember that? Before the sarcasm set into his bones?"

He narrows his eyes at them, and reaches for an eggroll.

"I remember." Sharon grins too. "Jesus, that was six, seven years ago? That's when we'd first bagged the Odinsons."

The memory clicked into place, and Bucky could feel the grin reach him, too. God, they'd been such a mess back then. Clint had just started up, the firm was growing bigger and bigger by the week. They'd spent almost three consecutive days in negotiations with Stark Finance over the Odinsons' accounts. "Oh, yeah."

"Ahhh," Clint mimics his tone, now that Bucky's in tune. "Remember how hopeless it all felt? We sat around my desk on Christmas night with just our legal pads and a whole lot of gusto. Until Stan brought us dinner—"

"You sent Stan home, right?" Bucky looks over at Sharon, just having remembered the man had been there. 

"Yes, of course." She hums, "After Sam left."

"—and we ate way too many dumplings until voila! An epiphany!"

"We settled before midnight." Bucky remembers. 

"All we had to do was play Stark a bit more closely—he never could just fucking say what it was he wanted, he always made you look for it." Clint mumbles. Then, with a bright, shit-eating grin,  "Thank God you put him out of business."

Bucky snorted in response. He reached forward and pours himself a bit of the wine. It looked heavenly—it smelled wonderful too. And with a little sip, he thinks about his makeshift little family here, at Barton & Barnes. Maybe things wouldn't be so bad—although the twist of his gut and his apparently incoming heat made him second guess that. 


 

Chapter Text

After a whole lot of coaxing, Steve finally went home.

If they were going to follow Sam's little plan, they'd have to wait at least another day. So, begrudgingly, Steve went home.

Well, really, it was more like Sam had forced him to go home, but not before he made him follow him to Riley's apartment first, to pick up Daisy. Apparently, she'd been tearing into Ry's house slippers. Sam didn't comment any further on the fact that Riley even owned house slippers; he only shoved the dog's leash at Steve's chest and sent him on his way. Daisy didn't seem too upset by Steve's mood, in fact, she'd just curled herself up on the passenger's seat and fallen asleep. 

Steve wishes things were that simple for him. 

His heart still felt like it was in fucking pieces, scattered across the Belt Parkway.

And he sure as shit wasn't looking forward to walking into his empty apartment. So, he took the long way home to Brooklyn, even sitting in traffic when he could have easily avoided it. 

And somehow, putting it off had only made it worse. 

His front door felt heavy and useless, and although Daisy simply trotted in behind him and made her way through the place, Steve found himself stalled in the foyer. The lights came on as he flicked the switches, but he couldn't bring himself to move any further. He hadn't been here in— well, although it felt like forever, it had only been what? Two weeks? Still, it felt like there was nothing there for him. 

Because there was nothing there for him.

If he weren't barely thirty, and in picture perfect cardiovascular health, Steve would have honest-to-God thought he was having a heart attack. It was as though his heart had literally stopped. He couldn't move, he couldn't breathe, he couldn't even get his brain to put what he was thinking into words. 

A panic attack, he realizes. He'd never had one of those before; but sometimes Sam did, and the way he'd explained them, the sheer fear Steve knew was behind them, that was the only explanation for what he's just experienced. He didn't notice it, but he'd taken a few more steps into the apartment, and could see his living room.

It looked so bare, and empty. 

He'd had some people by to clean up before he left for the Hamptons with Bucky, but still. It didn't just look clean, it looked sad. 

Sad, because Bucky's blankets weren't there. Because Bucky wasn't sitting there, legs tucked up under himself, watching something scary on TV and sipping on his wine. 

He felt that pang in his chest again, and has to remind himself to breathe. 

Daisy made her way over to him, looking a lot less herself. With a bit of a yelp, she circles Steve's legs, and settled at his feet, looking up at him expectantly. She'd been through the entire apartment, and hadn't found Bucky. 

"He's—he's gone, Daze." Steve whispers down at her. She barks, so he repeats. "He's gone." 

That wasn't enough of an explanation, so she barks one more time for good measure, and trots over to the couch. Inside the center console, the cleaning ladies had folded Bucky's blanket up and neatly tucked it away. With a whole lot of nudging, the retriever pops the top open, and yanks the giant chevron blanket out. She looks conflicted—probably having wanted to settle on it herself, but decides to drag it over to where Steve is standing. 

And that was enough to finally make Steve cry. 

 



Across Brooklyn, Bucky was having an even worse time. 

"M'fine—" He tries to argue, but the four women around him wouldn't be hearing any of it.

Sabrina was on his left on the couch, and had the back of her hand against his forehead. Becca was on his other side, petting his hair. Sharon was stood nervously off to the side, and Dr. Cho was shining her pen light in his eyes again. 

"Shut up and let the doctor help you, Bug." Becca murmured, pushing his hair back a bit more forcefully. 

Bucky's eyes focus on Sharon. She's responsible for this. 

See, he didn't want to leave the office, but his heat had arrive in full force. And if he thought his last heat was strong after bonding with Steve, this heat away from Steve was going to end him, indefinitely. Eventually he did leave the office, but being back at his apartment only exacerbated his symptoms. Hot flashes, outrageous sweating, cramps that made him literally pass out. It was terrible, and for once, Sharon wasn't being snooty and sarcastic—she was really, honestly, scared. So, she did the only thing she could think of.

She called his sisters. 

At first, he'd been grateful for the company. It meant he didn't have time to think about Steve; but as his heat worsened, he grew more and more irritable, and having two alphas  in his space was only making him agitated. The final straw was when Bucky had tried to yank his blanket out from where Becca had sat on the edge. Paired with the amount of effort he exerted to make the pull, a terribly timed bout of cramps struck and he'd actually passed out. Eyes rolling back in his head, weird little gasp, the whole nine yards. He'd woken up to Cho cracking smelling salts under his nose. 

"Said m'fine!" Bucky tries again, but Cho simply reached into her kit for an intravenous fluid bag. 

"Is it...still the same alpha?" Cho asks Sharon, her voice clipped and short. 

"Do I strike you as a slut?" Bucky snaps, but rather wishes he hadn't, because he felt dizzy immediately after. 

Cho frowns at him. "That's not what I meant. Look, there's a considerable amount of stress on your adrenal and reproductive systems right now, James. You've been partnered with an alpha through an especially strong bond for a few weeks now, without sealing it with a mark." 

"So?" He glares at her perfectly professional face. It made it hard to be snarky at her. 

"So, it means your body had been preparing for the mark, and for conception, for what, four weeks now?" She carefully hands the IV bag to Becca, who places it on the couch cushions behind Bucky's head. "Without suppressants, you've essentially been ovulating for four weeks. Your body's a bit fed up that you haven't conceived yet. On top of that, being away from your alpha isn't exactly helping." 

"Is there any way to make it stop?" Becca asks, looking at the painful way Bucky's stomach had tensed up under his thin t-shirt. 

"Suppressants can prevent it from happening again." Cho frowns, "But besides the mark from the bonded alpha, or at least lessening the—" She pauses, trying to find the right word, "—animosity between the two of them, I'm afraid not." 

Bucky lets his head loll back against the cushions with a groan. 

"He shouldn't have anymore fainting spells if you girls keep him hydrated." She nods, putting the rest of her things away. Before she stands, though, she puts a warm, comforting hand on his and nods, "If you're going to see this through and want my help getting through the symptoms of withdrawing the bond, I'll be here whenever you call, James."

"Thanks, Cho." He frowns, feeling terrible for having snapped at her now. "M'sorry m'bein' a bitch. I really owe you one."

"Of course, James," She stands, but before walking off, she turns, "Oh, I don't mean to pry, but are—" She pauses again, "Are any of you on good terms with the alpha?" 

They look at eachother, Bucky quietly waiting to see which of the three women would betray him like that. Sensing their hesitance to answer, Cho waves a hand. 

"I just mean, you might want to check in on him." She makes a little unsure face, "It's serious this go around. He's probably rutting in response to the strain on the bond as well. If it's even nearly as severe as James', he's probably very on edge."

"What do you mean, 'on edge'?" Sharon asks, but Bucky doesn't have it in him to glare at her sympathy.

"Well," Cho frowns, clearly feeling bad for upsetting Bucky any more, "His hindbrain would assume the distance between them meant some kind of danger was to come to his omega. It's not like he could help it, really. He could be stuck in fight-or-flight. It could be rather upsetting to endure that for very long." 

"It's also upsetting to have my own uterus try to contract itself out of my fucking body." Bucky grit his teeth. 

"Right. Of course." Cho gives an uneasy smile, "It's just—different for alphas. Your symptoms are very physical. Theirs tend to be more psychologically taxing." 

"Lucky bastards." Bucky groans again. 

"I ought to be going then." Helen excuses herself deftly, and none of them speak until the door shuts. 

All at once, all three women started talking over each other. Bucky could only make out bits, "—what the fuck did Steve do to our brother—", cut off by "—I'll fuckin' kill him, I swear—", interrupted by, "—we don't know yet—"

Bucky clears his throat, which makes all of them look down at him. "I think I'd like to sleep now, if you three would so kindly talk about me in the other room." 

Sharon made a face at him, clearly wanting to have the conversation he didn't, but huffs and turns for the kitchen. His siblings rise as well, and follow her.

Bucky yanked his blanket to his chest. Truth be told, his heat was a good distraction—not a welcome one, but a good one nonetheless. The pain pulled him away from the intrusive thoughts. If he was hunched over in pain, he didn't have to think about the sheets upstairs that definitely still smelled like Steve, or his clothes in the closet, or his cologne on the vanity. He didn't need to think about Daisy's dog bed thrust into the corner by a curious friend. "When did you get a dog?" Sharon had hummed earlier, toeing it off to the side. Fortunately, Bucky had been in enough pain that he hadn't been expected to respond. 

From the couch, he heard them in the kitchen, whispering all too loudly. Sabrina sounded sad, "—how is he so sure it was Steve?", and Becca answered before Sharon could, "He isn't—can't you see it on his face?—but you know Buck, Sabby. He never thinks he deserves good things. It's probably easier for him to end things now while he has an excuse than to wait and really get hurt." 

That brought tears to his eyes. Becca didn't even need to hear his excuses. She knew him well enough to pluck the truth out from under him and leave him a mass of unbridled emotion, incapacitated on the couch. She was right. Completely. He didn't even give Steve the chance to explain himself—he'd just jumped to the first conclusion that lined up with the doubts Brock had seeded, and ran with it. It made him sick to his stomach now. 

She was wrong about one thing, though. He didn't need to wait any longer to end up hurt. 

 


 

Bucky’s cramps wore off after a solid seven-ish hours of torment. He’d slept most of the day, but the women in his house didn’t let him out of their sight. They were at his side the entire time, with a glass of water, with a heating pad, with just about anything this ridiculous heat demanded of him.

He still didn't want to get into bed. He really didn't, but the truth was, the moment the pain was gone, his resolve fell. He felt like he was crawling out of his skin trying to find something of Steve's to give him comfort. His sisters had gotten their scents all-over his makeshift nest on the couch, so it didn't even smell like himself anymore. It smelled like chocolate and rum—and although it was comforting, it wasn't the sort of comfort he needed then. 

So when all three of his guests had fallen asleep around him in the living room, Bucky took himself up the stairs as quietly as he could manage. The bedroom door creaked under his palm, and the wall of scent that greeted him felt like he'd taken a huff of the worlds strongest drug. Steve's scent was downright euphoric, making him all that much more eager to bury himself under blankets on the bed.

Bucky made his way into the room, passing by the little rack where he sometimes put his jackets. Steve had left his sweatshirt hanging there, and, instinctively, Bucky reached for it and yanked it over his head. The arms were too long, making him feel warm and protected. Silly, he knows. It's just a shirt. A shirt Steve would probably want back. Maybe Bucky wouldn't wash it—maybe he'd give it back just fucking dripping in his scent, just to screw with Steve. 

That is, if Steve even reacted to his scent anymore. 

But Bucky hated the idea of being spiteful towards Steve, even if he was still exceptionally angry with him. He remembers their first date—how he’d tried to blow Steve off, and how he’d refused to give up on him. The wine, the pizza, the fuckin’ snow outside; the memory was forming a lump in Bucky’s throat.

At the vanity, Bucky runs his finger over Steve’s things—his cologne, his watch, his little comb. He pulls the little drawer out, searching for one of Steve’s ties, but instead finds a little red box of condoms. Steve’s alpha condoms—the thin ones he preferred.

That reminds him of a less fond memory with Steve. He could see the disappointment on his face, and it breaks his heart again, remembering how he’d asked, “What baby, Buck?”. He realizes then, that if he had been carrying Steve’s child, he wouldn’t have been upset.

Not at all.

Career be damned, reputation be damned.

God, this heat was really throwing him for a loop. Was he even thinking right? Or were all the hormones in his body tripping him up in feelings he didn’t really have?

Finally, he crawls into the bed and pulls the duvet up to his face. Steve’s scent swathes him in a blanket of warm cinnamon and woodsmoke, calming him down immediately. He could almost feel Steve’s hands on his shoulders, wrapping around him and making him feel safe, much like he had during his last heat.

And just to fuck with him again, his heat decided to switch things up.

He thought about Steve’s hands dropping down his arms and swiping up his waist, stalling at his chest, which sent him headfirst into another facet of his heat.

He couldn’t blame the women downstairs—not really. His sisters were alphas, and neither of them had ever had unsuppressed partners; and Sharon had been on suppressants all her life. None of them had experience with an omega in heat, much less a heat this extreme, and so none of them had even considered the fact that he may need to be alone at some point. He’d barely been able to get a plug in in the bathroom, without them thinking he’d died during his bath.

But here, in their bed, alone, he could do whatever he wanted.

He reaches a curious hand down between his legs—over his pants, because he still wasn’t ready to admit to himself that he was going to masturbate to the memory of Steve—but what he feels there only solidifies that he would need to. His boxers were completely damp with his own slick.

He can almost hear Steve’s growly voice, “Jesus, Buck, all this for me?”

But he paused, hand still over his half-hard erection. What was he doing? Even through the haze of his heat, he knew how ridiculous this was. He’d begun hearing Steve’s voice when he wasn’t there—it could only go downhill from here.

He groaned, loud and unabashedly frustrated. How the hell was he going to get through this? He still had his job to do, he still had to handle the fallout of the indictment, and he couldn’t do that if he was flipping between moments of either immense pain or unbridled horniness.

Angry and frustrated, he stared at the ceiling, refusing to think any more about the big blond answer to his problems.

 


 

Steve’s rut had gotten worse, too.

It was one in the morning, and Steve couldn’t even imagine being asleep.

Daisy had attempted to occupy Bucky’s side of the bed—listen to him, Bucky’s side, as though there was any hope left for them—but had grown annoyed at Steve’s constant tossing and turning. So, she’d abandoned him, too.

He drops his hand down to his lap, frustrated by the erection that was there. Constantly there. Irritatingly, infuriatingly, and unwaveringly there. No matter how many times he tried to handle it.

And handling it didn't really help him, either. Well, momentarily, it did; but the erections came back relentlessly, and so did his guilt. It felt wrong, coming quietly in the darkness of his unlit bedroom, with his eyes pressed shut, lusting over someone who no longer wanted him. He couldn’t help it though—nothing else seemed to get him off.

And that did nothing but fuel his guilt more.

He knew Bucky was hurting—he could almost feel it. Their bond was stretched thin—Bucky was probably well-into trying to break it. The thought alone made Steve frantic. He can’t imagine breaking their bond himself—what, were they just supposed to go back to playing cat-and mouse across a conference table? He wouldn’t do it.

He refused to even consider it.

Even if it meant that he could never bond again. Even if it meant he couldn’t look at Bucky without breaking down. Even if he had to watch Bucky move on and bond some other alpha.

His eyes pinch shut at the thought of the last possibility. That might actually kill him.

Instead of reaching under his boxers again, he throws himself up out of bed, and yanks a pair of sweats on. If he wouldn’t let himself handle his rut traditionally, he needed to find another way to blow off some steam.

In the spare bedroom, he had a little gym going. Weights, a Peloton bike, a rowing machine, and in the corner, a full sized punching bag. He didn’t even need to think about which item he wanted to use.

Before he’d even really realized, he’d been throwing punches so hard, he was running out of breath.  He heaved, and hunched over to wipe the sweat from his brow.

How could he be so fucking stupid?

He shouldn’t have given Bucky the Danvers account in the first place. He wasn’t entirely naive. Even if nothing turned up in his audits, he knew Carol wasn’t completely clean—but it didn’t matter, because she was worth so much money, and he knew she’d been careful. So careful, that he never found her dirty money, and neither did Bucky when he agreed to take the account off his hands.

But Bucky—why did he run? Why didn’t he let him explain himself? Not that he would have done a good job; he’s pretty sure there isn’t anything he could have said that would have made him stay—but why didn’t he even give him a chance? God, sometimes, the way that man doubted him could really get to be infuriating.

All this time, he’d been angry with himself—rightfully so—and he hadn’t even considered Bucky’s fault. Well, it was pretty difficult to do when they’d been bonded together by fate and the universe and whatever else governed bonds these days. 

Still. It was stupid and reckless of him to put Bucky’s career in danger like that, and now it was going to cost him the only thing he cared about.

He hurled his fist at the bag so hard, the springs holding it down squealed in protest.

Sam’s plan would work. It had to work.

 


 

The following morning, things weren't any better. Sam was at his apartment before ten, and had to force Steve up off of the couch and into the shower. He'd fallen asleep sometime after five, after thoroughly exhausting himself boxing. Sam hadn't been happy about that; he'd likened getting Steve ready to dragging around a life-sized Ken doll. At one point, he'd grabbed him by the jaw and glared, "Do you even want to do this?". Steve hadn't answered, because he didn't even know that, himself.

They'd barely been apart for two days, and his rut had gotten so bad that he didn't even want to move. He had nothing left of his omega, since they'd spent the days before the Hamptons at Bucky's place. No clothes, no blankets, nothing with his scent on it; and it was as though his brain had slipped from the panicked, frantic mode of searching for a lost omega, to the depressed, loathsome mode of mourning a lost omega. 

And to be completely honest, Steve had begun to lose his last shred of hope, because now Sharon had stopped answering him, too.

He’d been trying to keep up with Bucky’s heat as much as he could, and he couldn’t just waltz over there and demand to know how his omega was doing. So, Sharon had been sending him texts, keeping him up-to-date. Apparently, their doctor had to stop by to give him fluids, because he’d passed out.

Hearing that made it difficult to do anything but panic, but he'd followed Sam to his car, nonetheless.

“Stop fuckin’ freaking out.” Sam hisses, and snatches his phone from his palm. “I thought I told you to put on scent blockers?”

Steve frowns. “I did.”

“Of course you did,” Sam mocks his tone, but blinks, pulling a little foil packet from his jacket pocket. “Here, put these on. They'll help.”

Steve tears the thing open, finding two thin little square patches, like the sort people use to stop smoking. He looks up at Sam, confusedly.

“They'll stop the itch. Put them on, Steve.” He reaches forward, loosening Steve’s tie, and pressing one against his neck, right over the slightly swollen scent gland just below the shirt collar. “C’mon, other side.”

Steve mirrors what he’d done on the other side. “Sharon’s not answering my texts.”

“I know, buddy.” Sam leans back, making sure Steve’s tie was straight, “You told me already.” He pauses, taking in the look on Steve’s face, “Are you sure you’re up for this?”

“No.” Steve doesn’t hesitate, “But I’ll do what I have to.”

He looks up at the giant iron insignia of a bird on the wall. It's backlit by sharp fluorescent blue lights. The more he thought about Sam's plan, the less he thought it was going to work; but the alternative was going home to an empty apartment and wallowing through the New Year. 

“Atta boy.” Sam smacks his shoulder. “Remember. He’s not Mr. Sympathy, so don’t mention your bond. He won’t care. Hopefully he won’t be able to smell you freaking the fuck out, and for fuck’s sake, don’t mention the scar.”

“I know, Sam.” Steve takes a staggering breath, noticing the receptionist as she makes her way back to them. She's got a crop of beautiful coily hair, pulled up in the front, and lovely brown skin, freckled with patches of vitiligo. 

“Mr. Rogers, Mr. Wilson?” She sings, a gorgeous smile on her face.

“Dom,” Sam smiles back. Steve doesn’t think he could smile if he tried.

She gestures to the long hallway she’d just come down. “Mr. Fury will see you now.”

 

Chapter Text

“So what exactly are you trying to tell me, Mr. Wilson?” Nicholas Fury sat back in his chair.

Steve glances over at Sam, and watches him swallow, deathly afraid of misspeaking.

Truth be told, anyone in their right mind would be afraid of Nick Fury. The man was almost seven feet tall, bald, and literally wore an eyepatch.

Just then, though, he didn’t look all that intimidating in his red cashmere sweater—but that was probably because Steve wasn’t in his right mind, and was flying completely blind of his senses here. To him, he just looked like a man—a man who probably didn’t want to be at work, and was getting fed up with two guys spinning yarns about his protege. 

Sam had spent the last five minutes beating around the bush, so Steve leans forward, “Mr. Fury, we have reason to believe that one of your employees might have been involved in something actionably unlawful.”

Fury arches an eyebrow at him, and a hint of a smile plays at his lips. “He speaks.”

“Yessir.”

“And what makes you think this employee of mine has done something illegal?” He sighs, clearly only barely entertaining Steve’s idea. “And furthermore, what makes you think I care what he does on his own time?”

“Sir, Rumlow’s decisions—”

“So this is about Rumlow.” Nick postures, “And I'm meant to believe that this has nothing to do with that Barnes’ kid?”

Steve’s teeth clench instinctively. “I beg your pardon?”

“Rumlow isn’t the smoothest shell on the beach, Rogers.” He waves a hand. “He’s been trying to win him over, but it doesn’t seem as though Barnes is all that interested.”

Steve feels a bit of a swell of relief in his chest at that.

“Last I’d heard, the two of you had taken a liking to one another.” Nick’s eyebrow goes up. “And judgin’ by the hormone patch you got stickin’ out of your collar, I’d say things aren’t going so well.”

“Sir—”

“So, what I really want you to explain—and that can be either of you, really—is why you’ve decided to rope me into this little love triangle y’all have got going on.” Nick’s voice cuts like glass, leaving all three of them quiet for a long moment.

“Mr. Fury.” Steve starts, his voice quiet. “I understand your hesitance. Believe me, I do; but can you honestly say, without a doubt, that Rumlow is clean?”

Nick scoffs, “That’s hardly my concern, Steve. He shows up, he puts his head down, and he does the work. What he does for himself, on his own time, is hardly my concern.”

“What if what he does on his own time is meant to undermine Fury & Company?” Steve deadpans.

“Well, I’d say that’s a lofty accusation.” Nick grins, “But you’re placating me.”

“I have personal, first-hand knowledge that he’d attempted to leave your company for Wiltshire-Barnes.” Steve manages with an even voice, even though he felt like he could pass out at any second.

“He signed a non-compete when he first started here.” Nick says.

“With all due respect, sir, I doubt he values it anymore.” Steve frowns. “Not to mention the favors he pulled to get the Wiltshire-Barnes offer, were probably due to your resources here.”

Nick inhales sharply, as though he’d begun to consider Steve’s words.

“And I doubt he’d have any qualms with tying his activity to your company—he’s smart when it comes to these things. Like I said, I’ve seen it first hand. I believe that if he’s responsible for the Danver’s indictment, that he’s probably got a hit list. Would you be willing to wager that you and I aren’t on it?”

Nicholas takes a breath, and scrubs his hand over his jaw, then raising it defensively, “I’m not sure what it is you want me to do here, Rogers.”

“I’m asking you to fire him.” Steve replies without hesitating. "Or at least be willing to." 

Nick looks at him, then at Sam, then back at Steve. “You want my permission for you to go out and threaten one of my own employees with job termination. That’s what you’re asking, isn’t it, Rogers?”

“More or less.” Steve quips back. “Can’t go around making threats I can’t deliver.”

Mr. Fury looks impressed, but the way he clasps his hands together makes Steve wary.

“You know, I thought it would be Barnes making this meeting.” He hums. “I’m a fan of that kid. He’s got gall, and that’s rare these days. When I heard about the indictment, I thought, ‘That kids gonna find that whistleblower by New Year’s, and if he can’t, he’ll tear through the entire district until someone starts talking’.” 

A little smile reaches Steve’s eyes.

“Barnes is her legal rep, isn’t he?”

“Yessir.”

“I’m guessin’ you had something to do with that.” He narrows his eye at him.

Steve almost winces, “Unfortunately, I did.”

“So you’re doing damage control?” He folds his arms across his chest.

“Look,” Steve sits up straight and gears up to give his best sales-pitch. “We both know that Rumlow’s a bit overzealous. I can say, conclusively, that he’s at least been using your company’s resources to try to secure his place at other firms. I won’t even speculate what shortcuts he’s taken within Fury & Co., but I’m willing to bet he’s looking more and more like a liability you don’t need.”

Nick squints. “And you’re telling me that you think, based on your ‘first-hand’ experience with him, that he’s the whistleblower on the Danvers case?”

“Yessir, I do.”

A long moment passes, all three men completely quiet. Mr. Fury eventually lets out a long sigh.

Shit.” He whispers under his breath. “I knew that kid would bite me in the ass.”

Sam perks up in his seat.

“Fine.” Nick huffs, looking over at the two of them again. “I want audio, so one of you gets mic’d up and gets it out of him. It’s got to be able to stand up in court, should I need it to—so make it clean, Rogers.”

“Yessir, I will—”

“And look at me, Rogers.” Nick warns, and waits until Steve meets his eye before pointing a lean finger at him, “Get it done before Barton ends up where you’re sitting, asking for the same thing.”

 


 

Sharon was staring at her phone with one of her looks. It was one she didn't use often—where her eyebrows went down in the middle and her eyes narrowed down to suspicious slits—and it almost always meant that she'd seen, heard or read something she did not believe a word of. 

Bucky gave her one of his looks, one that insisted she explain, but Sharon only locked her phone and shoved it in her pocket. 

Becca returned to the living room, having refilled his water bottle for the hundredth time today. "Here," She hums, handing to him with a little pout. 

"I don't want anymore water." He groans, but all three women around him set the fiercest glares they could manage on him, so he just began unscrewing the top. 

"Cho said you needed to stay hydrated." Sabrina says, but doesn't take her eyes off of the TV. They'd been watching a few seasons of a cooking show. Bucky had checked out after the blond contestant was kicked off for serving the judges some rather watery risotto. 

Since then, he'd been in-and-out of sleep, waking only to take meds to alleviate the cramps that had woken him up. It'd been a vicious cycle of pain, mindless TV binge-watching, and medicated sleep. 

And to make matters worse, the meds he took for the pain prevented him from dreaming. 

Honestly, that should have been a good thing. At least then, he would be able to sleep soundly and uninterrupted for a few hours.

But he hated it. 

Steve's scent had also begun wearing off. Their bed was beginning to smell less and less like the alpha, and Bucky was running out of clothes that smelled like him to sleep in. 

And now these meds were taking the last bit of Steve that he had left—his dreams. 

At this point, he'd considered calling him. No, no, no. That was his heat talking. He should hate him, just the thought of the alpha should make Bucky angry, but it doesn't. 

It makes him sad. He thinks about them, about how well they fit in each other's arms, how much he misses the alpha's scent already, how badly he wanted his hands on his body, and it makes him sad. The women in the room have stopped commenting on his shifting scents, because it seemed as though he grew distressed every ten minutes or so, and they'd gotten used to it. Still, Becca notices, and takes Bucky's hand, giving him a little squeeze. 

Maybe he didn't need to call him. Maybe he could just listen to a voicemail or two—irrationally, he thinks that hearing Steve's voice will make him feel better. So covertly, he slips his phone out of his pocket, and realizes he needs to un-block Steve's number to find the messages. The second he does, though, his phone starts dinging and vibrating as though it was possessed. 

All of Steve's messages came in at once. A hundred and six texts. Thirty-four missed calls. Thirty-one voicemails. 

He glances up, to see all three women staring at him expectantly. 

"I—" He says quietly, "I un-blocked his number."

"Why?" Becca's eyebrows furrow, and her voice is a little accusatory. 

"I just...want to hear his voice." 

"Is that a good idea?" Sabrina asks, a bit gentler than their sister had spoken.

"I don't think so." He whispers.

"Is that you talking, or your heat?" Becca arches an eyebrow.

"I don't know." Bucky furrows his and looks down. "I don't know anymore. I—I can't even remember why I was so angry with him."

"I do." Becca grumbles. 

"I don't." Sharon pipes up, a bit of hope in her voice. "We can try to talk to him. Maybe he can explain—"

"—No." His younger sister interrupts. "If he was able to explain, he would have come to your meeting Buck, not Wilson." 

"That's not—" Sharon starts, but stops. "I don't think that's true." 

"Why?" Bucky sits up, ignoring the protest in his gut. 

Sharon makes a face, and clears her throat before finally admitting, "We asked them to send Wilson instead."

"What?" Bucky snaps. 

Sharon fires back, "You were upset! I've never seen you that upset before, Buck. Never! Clint and I thought it would be for the best. God knows what you would have done to him had he have shown up." 

He takes a breath. Sharon was right. He was so angry then, he's not sure what would have transpired had Steve been out in front of him. Slowly, he rises to his feet, and starts up the stairs. "I'm going to call him." 

"Are you sure that's the best idea?" Sabrina asks, quickly cut off by Becca yelling that he shouldn't, and Sharon apologizing. 

"Go home." He grunts, and ascends the stairs.

Safely behind his bedroom door, he sits on the edge of the bed. How does he even begin to fix this? He'd shut his alpha out instinctively—for no reason other than his own selfish sense of self-preservation. Then again, he'd always been the type to do that. 

When things got rough, James Barnes was the first person to walk away. Always. 

He never waited for explanations, never listened to excuses. It's just the way he was. He put himself first, because with a family like his, and a life like his, he learned that if he didn't, no one else would. 

It's how he managed to survive all of these years. It's what made him so successful in his career. It's how he's been able to survive his family this long. When things begin to try his patience, ow when he begins to feel too invested in things, he runs. 

Steve was no different. 

How many times did he look at Steve, at the wisps of his eyelashes and the curve of his nose as he slept, and wonders just how long it would take for things between them to get rocky. For a while there, he didn't think they would. He was convinced that Steve would never—could neverhurt him. And now that he'd run, he's beginning to realize that maybe, just maybe, he hadn't. 

His finger trembled over the green dial button, but with a wave of gusto, he presses it. 

The line rings a few times, but stops with a faint click. "You've reached Steven Rogers. You know what to do."

Bucky lets out a choked little sound at the sound of Steve's cocky voice memo, just as the tone chimes. "Hi. Steve. Um, I—I need to see you."

  


 

 

Sam knew it was a bad idea, but he didn’t even attempt to stop Steve. He knew it wouldn’t be worth the effort, because between his rut, his pride, and his hatred for Brock Rumlow, Steve was going to do what he wanted to, anyway.

Fury was kind enough to let them know where Rumlow lived.

And as much as Steve wanted to find something wrong with the place, he couldn’t.

It was a nice, expensive-looking building in Hell’s kitchen. The building took up the block, but was split in half, to house two residents. God, even his house was pretentious. For a moment, Steve wonders if Brock had ever brought Bucky here. The omega didn’t seem to be a fan of pretentious-looking things—but then again, he was with Brock for almost two years.

He felt weird ringing the doorbell, and instead sets a heavy round of knocks on the giant white door.

Brock answers it, wearing a tight black t-shirt, and a pair of boxers.

“Rogers,” He grins, not making the slightest move to cover himself. “What a surprise.”

Steve felt his anger peak much quicker than he’d expected it to. Hopefully those patches wouldn’t wear off too soon.

“Rumlow.” Steve grits out. “I was hoping we could have a little chat.”

Brock leaned against the door. “A little chat? Since when do you and I chat?”

Steve takes a deep breath, but Sam leans forward to answer him, “It’s business, Brock.”

He folds his arms across his chest. “Had you have called my office, they would have told you that I’m on vacation.”

“Brock—”

“As a matter of fact, you two should probably be on vacation, too.” He arches an eyebrow.

“It’s urgent.” Steve snaps. “We—” He takes a breath, “I need your help.”

Brock doesn’t hide his surprise, allowing a few shaky laughs to escape. “You, need my help? Fucking hell, what’s the world coming to?”

Steve glares at him, at the stupid stubble on his cheeks, and the way his hair had begun growing out. It makes him seethe, just how much he sees what Bucky saw in him.

“Come in, then.” Brock shrugs, and opens the door for them.

The two step inside, and Steve has to bite his tongue to keep himself from saying something rude. Brock’s apartment is beautiful—well-decorated, well-kept, very modern and eclectic. It reminds him of Tony’s place in the city.

“Have a seat.” Brock doesn’t hide his smirk, and gestures to his large living room. “I just need to get dressed.”

The second Brock disappears further into the house, Sam grabs Steve ’s collar, and slaps another patch on him. “If this is going to work, you need to calm down. You smell like vengeful alpha, and if Brock catches on before we’ve got him, this all goes to shit.”

“I’m trying.” Steve snaps back, adjusting his tie after Sam’s grappling.

Brock reappears in a turtleneck and a pair of slacks. “Can I get either of you something to drink?”

“No thank you,” Both of them reply eagerly.

Brock seems a little weary at their quick reply, but joins them in his living room nonetheless. “Alright, then, what can I help you with?”

“Danvers.” Steve says, getting straight to the point.

Brock’s eyebrows go up. “I heard about that. Shame, isn’t it? She was worth a lot.”

“Yes, she was.” Sam says.

“Now, as you probably remember, Steve, I’m stay out of criminal law for a reason,” He throws Bucky’s words back at Steve, “I’m afraid I can’t be of any use there.”

“You’ve got friends at the DA’s office.” Steve says bluntly.

“We golf.” He shrugs.

“You golf?” Steve glares.

“Yeah, we golf.” He grins, “What, did you think I had some magic hand over the district attorney? I haven’t made friends that high up, yet. Try Stark, or Fury.”

“We don’t need a magic hand.” Steve says, ready to set up his little con. “We just need to see the indictment.”

“I heard it was sealed.” Rumlow’s eyebrow goes up again.

“I heard that too.” Sam says.

“And I heard you’ve got friend at the DA’s office.” Steve repeats, leaning forward.

Brock frowns, still playing coy. “Suppose I do, by some miracle, have friends at the DA’s office. Why would I set them up like this? What could you possibly want from a sealed indictment?”

“You said it yourself, Danvers is worth a lot of money.” Steve clasps his hands, “We want to know just how much of it now belongs to the state.”

A smile takes over Brock’s face, but Steve isn’t sure if he’d gone for the bait yet. In such a short span of time, this was the best thing they’d come up with. Brock is a slimy son of a bitch—he wouldn’t hesitate to try to get himself cut into a deal, especially if it got him this kind of money.

“That’s a ballsy move, Rogers.” Rumlow croaks. “Unnecessarily ballsy, if you ask me.”

Steve is growing more tense the longer he spent in this man’s house. “Can you help us, or not?”

“Now, now,” Rumlow shifts in his seat, “I didn’t say I wouldn’t.”

Sam and Steve both pause. Perhaps this was going to be easier than they thought it would be.

Seeing Steve grow more comfortable, Rumlow decides to stir the pot. “How did James take the news of the indictment?”

It’s way more difficult for Steve to control himself, now. Even the mention of his omega’s name made him want to force Rumlow’s teeth down his throat.

“Not well.” Steve grits out.

“Ah, there it is!” Brock raises a finger. “Did he run? He always runs.”

“He didn’t run.” Steve bites. Except, he did run, didn’t he? “He’s trying to get to the indictment, too. Except he’s looking for the whistleblower. He’s going to try to discredit their claim, get the charges thrown out.”

“Oh.” Brock hums pensively. The look on his face made it clear that he was the whistleblower, but Sam and Steve couldn’t take the look on his face back to Fury, so he presses on.

“We’re just trying to save as much of the company as possible.” Steve tries to shrug, “If we can see the indictment, we’ll know what they’re seizing, and better yet, we’ll know what we can hide.”

“Steven Rogers, you dirty dog.” Brock hums. “You know, I knew about you and Danvers and Laufeyson all those years ago, but I didn’t know you still got down like that.”

“Can you help us, or not?” Steve repeats.

“Calm down, cowboy.” Brock’s eyes flit to his neck, and things begin to derail. With a slow grin, Rumlow notices, “You’re in rut.”

Look,”

“You’re in rut!” He says, louder this time, and sits up, pointing an accusing finger. “He did run, didn’t he? And now you’re having to break your little bond. God, that was fast! He sure doesn't waste any time.”

Sam tries to diffuse, “That has nothing to do—”

“Oh but it does, Wilson,” Brock grins, looking like a shark about to strike, “You know why he left you, Rogers? It’s not because of Danvers. It’s not because of me. It’s because of you.”

Sam laughs, very, very uncomfortably, because he had a hard enough time reining in Steve’s temper when he wasn’t rutting.

“Because he finally sees you for what you are.” Brock’s grin only widens. “He knows you’re a liar and a thief, just like me, just like all of us.”

“That means a lot coming from you, Brock.” Steve says, his teeth clenched so tight they could shatter. “You and I are not the same. If you aren’t going to help, just say so, and we’ll leave.”

Brock fans his arms out. “But you’re here? In my house. Asking me to bend the law to help you save a couple million dollars from being seized by the federal government.” He lets out a little chuckle. “And rutting at that. Am I not supposed to question your motivation?”

“I don’t care what you question.” Steve bites, “Just leave my omega out of it.”

“Ah, ‘your omega’,” Brock purses his lips. “You sure about that?”

“Deathly.” Steve warns. His voice is hoarse now, and his hands are clasped together so hard, he’s probably seconds away from popping blood vessels.

“You should ask him about Christmas Eve, then.” Brock winks, “You even consider that there may have been a reason he didn’t want you in the room?”

“You fucking—” He lurches forward, but Sam quicky sends his hand across his chest to keep him seated.

“This is wholly unnecessary.” Sam frowns, struggling to keep Steve sat.

“You’re asking me for a hell of a favor, I’m doing what I think is necessary.” Brock frowns.

A blur of movement forms in the hallway behind Brock, and slowly, Sam and Steve begin to make it out. A man—a brown-haired, blue-eyed man—seemingly naked, with just a blanket wrapped around him.

Steve’s heart fucking stopped.

Brock’s eyes follow their gaze, and a sweet smile masks his sinister one, and he coos, “Hey, baby.”

As the man got closer, Steve’s chest gradually unwound. It wasn’t Bucky. Thank fuck. It wasn’t Bucky. The sound of his voice still made Steve shiver.

“What’s all this? Come back to bed.” The smaller man asks, sleepily. His scent wafts over to Steve—orange and lilac. He remembers that scent. Rhodey’s party—this fucker had blown Bucky off that night, and brought someone else to the party. It made his stomach churn.

“I know, sweetheart.” Brock whispers at him, “I shouldn’t be too much longer. Wait for me.”

“Fine,” He sighs, offering a little smile to the other two men, and disappearing the way he came.

“I’d say sorry about that,” Brock sighs, the smile still on his lips, “But I ain’t.”

Steve tries to regain control, “Look’s like you’ve got a type.”

“Looks like we’ve got a type.” Brock’s eyebrow goes up.

Steve grinds his teeth. “Look, Brock. I’m not here to fight with you.”

“Sure looks like it.”

“Well I’m not.” He snaps back. “Can you get us the indictment? I'm willing to offer you a quarter of whatever is left."

"Half." Brock says.

"Half?" Sam almost chokes. "We don't even know what's left!"

"I know that." Brock arches an eyebrow. "Whatever it is, I want half." 

That was more than enough for Steve. 

"Fine." Steve cuts back, rising to his feet. "I'll have an NDA drafted up—"

"By the end of the day." Brock interrupts him, suddenly having a little glint of suspicion in his eye. 

"Of course. I'll have someone bring it by." Steve huffs.

There wouldn't be an NDA, and there sure as hell was no way he was seeing Rumlow's face again; but, he'd say whatever got him out the door quicker. 

"Pleasure doing business with you," Steve hears Sam say, and the sound of him clasping Rumlow's hand. He couldn't even look at him very much longer, lest he give in to the urge to break the man's face. He was almost at the door, when he hears Rumlow call out to him.

"Chin up, Steve. Hot little things like Barnes come around more than you'd think." 

Fortunately, Sam had his hand on Steve's back in an instant, steering him out the door before he could react.


 

Chapter Text

"Was that enough?" Steve growls as they get into the car.

"I sure fuckin' hope so." Sam whispers, fiddling with his phone to get the audio sent over to Fury. Suddenly, he looks up at Steve with something frantic in his eyes. 

"What? What is it? What did you do?" Steve snaps. 

"You need to calm down," Sam snaps, "You are my best friend, and you smell like you're about to have a fucking heart attack. It's scaring me."

Steve takes a rough breath, "Jesus Christ, Sam, I thought you'd fucked up the recording or something."

"No," Sam shows him the screen, "Look. It's sent. He'll get it any minute now. Can you relax now? You're making me antsy." 

Steve takes a deep breath, smelling Sam's frustration, as well as his own panicky scent. "M'sorry. Rumlow rattled me." 

"Yeah, I can tell." Sam hums, "At least it's done now."

"D'you think he's lying?" Steve grips the steering wheel entirely too hard for Sam's liking.

"Lying?" 

"Do you think Bucky slept with him?" Steve smells his scent shift again. It was becoming difficult to prevent it. 

"Of course not." Sam snaps, but when he sees it doesn't do much to calm the other alpha, she snaps his fingers in front of his face, getting his attention. "Look at me, Rogers. Barnes loves you. S'no way he slept with Rumlow after you two got together." 

"How do you know that?" 

"Because I'm sober, and you're high off epinephrine." Sam snaps. "If you two are ever going to fix this, you can't be so wound up over something we both know didn't happen."

"He doesn't want to see me, Sam." 

"Did he tell you that?" 

"He doesn't take my calls—and Sharon stopped giving me updates. For all I know, he's already broken the bond—God damn it, Sam I really fucked this up—"

"Come on," Sam presses the engine on, and shoves his phone in his suit pocket. "Let's go." 

"Go where?" 

"To his place." Sam says, like it was obvious.

"But he doesn't want to see me," Steve repeats.

"Well, I don't want to see you either. Not like this, at least." Sam folds his arms. "If he's broken the bond, then we'll know. If he's just still in heat, or he just needs more time, we'll know. You're driving yourself fucking crazy by not knowing." 

"You think he'll see me?"

Sam reaches into his pocket again, finding another hormone patch. "This is the last pair I've got, Rogers. So woo-sah some of that shit out, because if you go in there smelling all freaked out, you'll definitely upset him more than he already is." 

Steve takes the little patches, and applies them near the others. "I'm sure I'll upset him any way." 

"Or," Sam takes a patient breath, "Maybe he'll be happy to see you, and you'll get to explain yourself."

The alpha takes a moment to consider it, but the very moment his brain landed on the image of Bucky's soft, smiling face, he'd already clutched the gearshift, ready to put the car in drive. 

Steve fishes his phone out of his pocket, and almost passes out. 

Sensing the shift in his scent, Sam wearily asks, "What is it?" 

"He called." Steve whispers. 

Every inch of him wants to press play on the voicemail message, but something was keeping him completely still. Fear, he realizes. What if the message wasn't him? What if it was his sisters, or Sharon, telling him never to call his number again? He'd have to listen, then. God, what if it was Bucky? What if his omega had called and told him to stop contacting him?

"Give it." Sam sighs, pressing the phone to his ear. After a second a small smile surfaces on his lips, and he pulls it away, letting it play out loud. 

The omega's voice fills the small cab.  "Hi. Steve. Um, I—I need to see you."  

Sam grins at him. "Does that sound like he never wants to see you again?" 

Steve felt a swell of warmth in his chest, and it must have shown on his face, too, because Sam started laughing at him. Relief was there, but it was dampened slightly by the sting of Brock's words. He can't imagine Bucky having done such a thing, but his rut was making him exceptionally testy. He snaps the car into drive, and they speed off towards Brooklyn. 

 


 

 

 

They  got to Bucky’s apartment in record time. He’s almost certain Sam had been clutching the door handle for his very life.

Taking the stairs two at a time, he starts knocking on the door as hard as he can, and doesn’t stop until it swings open. When it does, he doesn’t even notice Becca on the other side, because the sweet, calming smell of his omega rushed into his lungs as if he hadn’t been breathing real air until he caught Bucky’s scent.

“What the hell are you doing here?” Steve finally notices Becca, but only because she’d stood in his way, boxing him out of the doorframe.

“M’here to see him.” Steve growls out, frantically looking over her shoulder. “Let me in, Becca.”

Becca didn’t move, and Steve smelled the shift in her scent. Her smell had grown hot, angry, and combative, instantly.

“What makes you think he wants to see you?” She growls back, a firm hand still on the door, ready to slam it on him. “You asshole. You think you have any right—”

“Hi, listen,” Sam pops his head around Steve, who looked as if he was equally ready to storm into the apartment, and pass out. “He’s still rutting, so he’s a little short on cohesive thoughts right now. I promise you, I wouldn’t have let him come here empty handed.”

Becca takes a look at Sam, and frowns. Finally, she looks up at Steve. “I’m not letting him anywhere near my brother when he smells like he’s ready to kill someone.”

“Buck!” Steve yells over her head. “Bucky!”

There’s a shuffle of sound inside, before Bucky walks up behind Becca, wearing a soft white shirt and a pair of Steve’s plaid pajama pants.

The air is knocked clean out of Steve’s lungs.

Bucky looked ethereal—and he knew that heats did that to omegas, made them soft and round and decadent but fuck, Bucky looked so good, Steve almost fell to his knees. And perhaps he was just overreacting after suffering from such intense withdrawals, but he couldn’t bring himself to think any more clearly.

The omega’s eyes are soft and dazed, the way they are when he first wakes up. His lips look round and pink, and Steve has to physically prevent himself from snapping them up against his own. Bucky’s hair, soft, tousled and and messy, confirmed Steve’s assumption that he’d woken his omega up.

“Steve?” Bucky whispers, noticing them both in suits. “Sam? What’s going on?”

“I need to talk to you.” Steve growls out, and his tone makes Bucky sober up immediately.

The omega folds his arms across his chest. “Yeah, okay. Come in.”

Come in?” Becca almost shuts the door on him. “Buck, do you—”

“Let him in, Becs.” He says, firmer this time. “We can talk in the kitchen.”

Steve steps inside, and feels swathed by Bucky’s scent. He can smell others—Sharon’s lavender, Sabrina’s chocolate—but Bucky’s, sweet and hot, laps at the edges of his temper. Then, he sees the other women as well. Following Bucky through to the kitchen, they pass Sabrina and Sharon, sat on his couch, glaring at him.

When they enter the kitchen, Steve watches Bucky settle clear on the other side of the room, as far as humanly possible from him.

Bucky’s cheeks seem flushed, and Steve hopes his scent is responsible for that.

“Is everything alright, Steve?” Bucky asks, folding his arms across his chest and peering towards the living room, where Sam had followed them in.

“‘Is everything alright’, Buck? You serious?” Steve murmurs, reaching up for his tie.

God, the feeling of plastic against his collar has been irking him all day, and he didn’t need anything else making this conversation more difficult, so he tosses his tie down on the island, and scrapes the patches off as well.

Apparently, Steve’s scent does seem to be affecting the omega. Steve watches Bucky shift his weight around, and look at everything besides him.

“I just got through talking to Rumlow.” Steve says, holding onto his temper for dear life. He could still see the little smirk on his face as he suggested he'd had his omega more recently than Steve had. He takes a breath—the last thing he wanted to do was frighten Bucky. “He’s the one who went to the DA. He’s the informant, and he’s the one who got the indictment sealed.”

Bucky finally looks at him, and the warmth in his eyes makes Steve swallow. “What? Why would he do that?”

Steve lets his hands hit his sides, “I don’t know, Buck. To fuck with us? To try to get you back? Because he felt like it?”

“I—” Bucky starts to speak, but stops. “But—”

He can't help it. His head is reeling with the possibility—the question would upset him, but he had to know—he couldn't even concentrate with the question unasked.

So, he snaps. “Did you sleep with him?”

“Excuse me?” Bucky’s eyebrows pinch together, clearly thinking he'd misheard.

Steve’s teeth unclench only enough to ask, “Did you sleep with Brock in the Hamptons?”

“What the fuck?” Bucky’s voice peaks. “No, Steve. Why would I—why would you even ask me that?”

“Then why did you run?” Steve asks, feeling his voice rising. “Huh? Why is it that when Sharon called, your first instinct was to assume I wanted to hurt you? I didn't, by the way.”

“I didn’t—”

“Yes, you did.” Steve closes his eyes, “You did, and you can’t even be honest with me.”

“That’s hardly fair, Steve.” Bucky whispers, looking towards the living room, where he knew everyone was gathered, probably overhearing this conversation. “Tell me you wouldn’t have come to the same conclusion.”

“That’s just it, Buck. I wouldn’t have.”

“Bullshit!” Bucky says, raising his voice to match Steve’s. “You would have put it together the same way I did—”

“No, I wouldn’t have!” Steve shouts, “Because I love you, and I wouldn’t do anything to hurt you. I thought you knew that.”

“Okay, look—” Bucky looks away, his eyes glassy with tears now. “We don’t need to do this, Steve. You want me to say sorry, fine. I’m sorry. You didn’t any of the things I thought you did, and I’m sorry.”

“Is that what you think I want? An apology?” Steve asks, taking a few steps closer.

“Well then what else do you want?”

“I want you to tell me why you don’t trust me!” Steve shouts. “What do you need me to do to show that I’m not going to hurt you? Tell me, and I’ll do it. I have made it clear—I’m not going anywhere, I don’t want anyone else, and yet you still don’t trust me!”

“What do you want me to say, Steve?” Bucky returns the shout, smelling more and more like a cornered omega—that sharp fight-or-flight scent, and the hot smell of panic.

“The truth!” Steve shouts back.

“I’m scared!” Bucky yells.

Steve stops dead in his tracks. The omega’s scent put a lump in his throat. So warm, so scared and vulnerable.

A long moment goes by, with just the sound of the two of them breathing roughly.

“Good things don’t last forever. You, me—whatever the fuck we had happening here. Nothing lasts forever. Everything spoils and sours and, for fuck’s sake, I don’t trust you not to hurt me.” Those tears are spilling now. “It’s petty and stupid, but I’m scared, Steve.”

Steve is quiet for a long time. So long, that Bucky forces himself to look at him. He’s got a weird look on his face, like he’d finally figured it all out.

Bucky uses the back of his hand to swipe over his nose. He began hyperventilating, and rambling, “I’m not good at this, Steve. I’ve never been in anything this serious. It was moving so fast, and then Brock and George put me on edge, and then Sharon called, and I’m sorry, but it made sense in the moment, and I overreacted, and I’m sorry—

Steve wraps his arms are around Bucky, and in an instant, the omega slumped into him.

“It’s alright,” Steve shushes him, “It’s okay, Buck.”

“M’sorry,” Bucky murmurs into his shirt, “M’sorry, Stevie.”

“Hey,” Steve takes Bucky’s cheek into his palm, “You don’t have to apologize to me, Buck. I told you, m’not going anywhere.”

“S’not fair.” Bucky mumbles against him, “S’not fair to you, Steve. You deserve someone who doesn’t fucking fight you on everything. Someone good for you.”

“You’re good for me.” Steve begs, “Listen to me, you’re good for me.”

“Steve—”

“No, I don’t want to hear it, Buck.” Steve chides. “It’s complicated—good things are complicated—but I love you, and I’m not going to give up on you just like that.”

Steve—”

“Yeah?”

M’sorry.” He whispers again, and it’s so soft, and sweet that Steve can’t help the little laugh that comes out.

They stand like that for God knows how long—just holding each other—until Bucky’s heat shifted tides, and cramps began to make him cringe.

“What’s wrong?” Steve whispers down at him, giving him a little space, but not taking his hands off of him completely. The way his chest felt tight at even the thought of letting go of the omega made it clear they weren’t going anywhere.

“Nothin’,” Bucky tries to say smoothly, but gasps at the pain. “M’just, m’still in heat.”

Now that the elephant in the room had been excused, Steve realized that he was suddenly losing the battle with his body. He'd put all of his energy into their fight, that he had none left now to curb his rut. He was suddenly very aware that Bucky, his very warm, very in-heat omega was pressed against him. His lower half reacted immediately, but he tried to keep his voice even and solid. “You probably need to rest. Have you been sleeping?”

Bucky was also losing the battle with his body, too. He had been from the moment he smelled the smoke of his alpha's scent. He’d already been vulnerable—and Steve hadn’t ran off for the hills yet. Maybe he could indulge himself—he trusted Steve.

God, he trusted Steve.

Steve would do right by him—and his hands would do right by his body. “Yeah, I slept. In your clothes.”

He feels Steve tighten up under him, and for a second, he thinks he’s overstepped. Fuck, they’d barely started talking again, and he was already trying to jump his bones—but then Bucky caught a whiff of Steve’s scent, hot and aroused, and looks up at him.

Steve looks like he was going to pass out if he concentrated any harder.

“Are you in rut?” Bucky whispers, sliding his nose up to scent his alpha. The warmth of cinnamon and the tang of pine and the sweetness of peppermint tickles his nose. “God, you are. You smell so good, Stevie.”

“Buck,” Steve says, warning him as best he could without breaking his concentration with more words.

“If you don’t want to, I won’t ask you to,” Bucky whispers, bunching his hands in the bit of Steve’s shirt that was exposed from his jacket. When the alpha doesn’t move, he pulls the shirt out of his pants, and skims the back of his knuckles against Steve’s skin, trailing over the thin line of blond hair that ran down into his pants.

Steve doesn’t hesitate to shift him up onto the counter. His voice is gruff, “I haven’t touched you in days, I think I might pass out.”

Bucky smiles, something sweet and soft and repentant, and it goes straight to Steve’s cock.

Their lips come together with way more force than Steve had intended—but when Bucky all but moans against his lips, Steve doesn’t find himself wanting to lessen up on his omega, at all.

“You look good in these,” Steve whispers against his lips, and takes a handful of the loose fabric of his plaid pajama bottoms.

“They smelled like you.” Bucky whispers sheepishly.

That sparks something primal in Steve, and he brings their lips together hard again, milking every soft sound Bucky had to offer.

Steve could feel the warm heft of Bucky, through his pants. God, if his pride could explode, it would probably be all over the kitchen just then. Neither of them pay mind to the rustling coming from the living room—how could they? They were completely at the mercy of their hormones, and after the strain their bond had gone through, neither of them had the restraint to consider their setting. 

“You gonna be cold if I take this off you?” Steve asks quietly, rubbing his thumbs on either side of Bucky’s waist, waiting for permission.

Bucky quickly shakes his head, and Steve had got his shirt off in a second.

“Fucking hell,” Steve growls, looking down at soft skin and pink nipples. “My baby.”

Bucky’s the one who pulls their lips together, kissing Steve wet and messy, as well as hitching his legs up and open for him to settle against him. Steve swipes his hands up Bucky’s skin, settling at his chest, and rubbing circles around his rosy nipples.

Fuck,” Bucky yelps, making Steve stop, “No, no, don’t stop, please.”

Steve dips his head down and laves his tongue against the soft bud, smiling to himself as he felt it pebble under his tongue.

“Stevie,” Bucky’s voice hitches, “M’gonna—”

“I know,” Steve licks his way back up to Bucky’s mouth, then licks him there, and cups his palm on Bucky’s erection, “I know, baby.”

Steve pushes his hand down Bucky’s pants, finding him commando. Then, dipping past his cock, he feels something smooth and rounded—a plug.

“Is that a—” Steve’s voice falters. “Fucking hell, Bucky, you’re going to kill me.”

A fierce blush stains Bucky’s cheeks, and Steve’s spit glistens on his lips. “I um, I was makin’ a bit of a mess.”

“Is that right?” Steve hums rubbing his finger around the rim of the plug. A bit of that slick slips out onto his fingers, and Steve quickly brings it to his lips.

Steve,” Bucky buries his embarrassed face against Steve's collar.

“You know how good you taste?” Steve whispers, bringing his lips to Buck’s, and then murmurs against him, “Like vanilla, and coffee. God, you taste so fucking good.”

Out in the living room, they finally hear the shuffle of people, only the front door opens, and shuts right after. Through the kitchen window, they can see them all pile into Steve’s car, Sam driving, and after a moment, they pull off. Off to where, Steve had no idea, nor did he really care, either.

“I—I forgot about them,” Bucky whimpers, beet red now. “You think they heard us?”

“I think they took the hint.” Steve kisses him again, hard.

Now that everyone was gone, Bucky didn’t need to rein himself in. He could be as loud as he wanted, as needy as he wanted. He could beg, or cry, or moan, and it seemed like Steve intended to make him do all of those things.

“I want you in the bed. You want that?” Steve murmurs, “Want to see all of you, spread out for me.”

“Yes,” Bucky wraps his arms around Steve’s shoulders, and the alpha lifts him against him and they start for the stairs.

Be it by an extreme dedication, or by a stroke of good luck, they made it up the stairs without a hitch. Steve sets the omega down on the bed with a soft grunt, and peeks at the pitiful little nest he had going—it was Steve’s sweatshirt, and a few blankets.

Bucky quickly began untying the little knot keeping his pants up, but Steve catches his hands, and pulls them above his head. “I’ll get those.”

Dropping kisses down his chest, Steve makes his way to the corner of the pants, slowly undoing the knots. Bucky squirmed under him, but Steve’s heavy hands held his hips down. When the pants are far down enough to expose Bucky’s knees, the omega instinctively pulled them up to present for Steve.

“Fuckin’ hell,” Steve hums, pressing open-mouthed kisses to the inside of Bucky’s pretty thighs. “You miss me, baby?”

“Yes, my God, I’ve missed you,” Bucky whines, lacing his fingers through Steve’s hair.

“Look at that,” The alpha murmurs, running his hand along Bucky’s erection, then dipping down to slide a finger around the little silver plug.

Slowly, his fingers get a grip on the slick-covered toy, and begin to ease it out—it’s a tiny thing, barely the size of two or three of Steve’s fingers, and he can barely contain himself, bringing the toy to his lips.

Steve!” Bucky whined again, and covered his face, smelling hot and embarrassed.

Steve doesn’t hesitate to crawl down on him, and kiss him rough and sloppy. Bucky doesn’t stop him either, he merely melts into the kiss, whining and whimpering sweetly against his alpha. “You taste good, Buck. ’N I’m not gonna stop tellin’ you that, either.”

Bucky makes a little noise acknowledging Steve’s words, but when the alpha rubs his thumb over the now vacant spot between his legs, he groans.

“Keep your hands there.” Steve growls, and trails down Bucky’s body, until he’s back between his legs. He shrugs out of his blazer haphazardly, and then slides his palms up the backs of Bucky’s thighs, pushing them up against the omega’s chest.

Then, he doesn’t hesitate to put his face exactly where he’d been dreaming of putting it for days now.

The sound Bucky let’s out is almost inhuman, and his hand dart down into Steve’s hair. The alpha tilts his head back—not moving his tongue from his task, but back enough to glare up at the omega—and Bucky hesitantly returns his hands above his head.

The sounds coming from the alpha were enough to send Bucky right up to the edge—and his fingers clench at the sheets so hard they almost tear. “Stevie,” He tries to warn.

So Steve lets up, replacing the swirl of his tongue with the tip of his finger. “No, not until I’m inside you.”

“But—”

“What did I say?” He crawls up the omega’s body again, using his unoccupied hand to take both of Bucky’s wrists again, peppering little kisses all over his neck and jaw. “Say it back to me.”

“Not—not until you’re inside.” Bucky whimpers, then moans fully when he feels Steve’s digit sink into him.

“Because you’re mine, right Buck?” Steve hums into his skin. “Mine, and you'll listen to me, right?”

“Yes, yours, Stevie.”

“I like you like this,” Steve whispers. “I know you’re scared to, but I want you to let go. You don’t have to be so strong with me, Buck. I’ve got you.”

Bucky opened his mouth to protest, but Steve slips another finger in, and his eyes roll back.

“Listen to your body, baby,” Steve says, nuzzling his omega’s neck, “Let me take care of you.”

Bucky knows what he means, even if Steve didn’t say it. He knew it would have to happen eventually, but he really didn’t think it needed to happen now. Steve’s body and brain wanted Bucky to submit, to completely let go under his alpha’s hands, and God, he was getting close to letting that happen. The way Steve’s hands touched him exactly where he needed them to was beginning to feel a lot like the universe screaming "It's him, Barnes. He's the one.".

He was still scared—he’d had years and years of experience telling him that alphas didn’t want needy omegas. They didn’t want him slack-eyed and begging, no matter how much their words paradoxically demanded it.

Steve slipped yet another finger in, teasing his tongue along his neck. “C’mon, Buck. Let go for me.”

Bucky pressed his eyes together tight, then whispers, “How, Stevie?”

An appreciative groan game from the alpha, “Talk to me,” Bucky made an embarrassed sound, and Steve only tuts at him. “Tell me what you like.”

“Your fingers,” He tries, and spreads his legs more, “I like your fingers.”

“Yeah?” Steve whispers, looking at the absolutely debauched look on his lover’s face.

“B—But I want you inside me.” He wiggles away from his fingers, “I’m close, Steve.”

“Oh, I know.” Steve hums, his fingers staying buried to the hilt, nudging his prostate with every pump. “So close. I can see it on your face. You want to come so bad.”

“Please?”

“Mhm, no.”

Please?”

“Please what?” Steve’s grin widens, “C’mon Buck, let go.”

Bucky’s shoulders shudder, “Stevie, I swear to God.”

So Steve pulls his fingers out, and brings them to his lips. Bucky groans, and drops his hands down to his chest, grazing over his nipples for some sort of friction. Then, realizing Steve was still dressed, he reaches down for Steve’s belt.

Steve doesn’t seem to mind Bucky’s hands moving now, and he just hovers above the omega as he tried to shimmy Steve’s pants down.

“Please take them off,” Bucky whines, and it’s absolute music to Steve’s ears, so he kicks them down. Bucky reaches down and yanks his boxers down his thighs, too, revealing a hot, swollen cock. “I want you to knot me,”

That seems to stir Steve along. “You want my knot?”

Bucky nods, “Yes, fuck, I need it.”

Steve murmurs another curse, before reaching over to the nightstand, groping for condoms. He finally finds one, and has the little foil torn open and the condom rolled onto his length in a few seconds.

“Mhm, my perfect omega.” Steve growls into Bucky’s ear. “You want this? You want me?”

Yes,” Bucky tries to slip himself down onto Steve’s cock, but misses.

“Then ask for it.” Steve noses that spot again, right where Bucky’s scent glands were, right where he wanted to mark him.

And that, honestly, was enough for Bucky’s switch to flip completely. “Please, alpha.” he pulls his legs up, making himself more accessible to Steve, and tilts his head to the side, baring his neck, “Knot me, mark me. I’m yours.”

Buck,” Steve groans, sinking into him slowly. He’s met with a little resistance, even though Bucky had been plugged full of slick, and settles his palm on the omega’s throat. “Mine,”

Bucky’s fingers slide into Steve’s hair, and his jaw drops, “That’s it, Stevie. All the way, please.”

So he does, slowly but surely, he keeps going until their pelvises touch, then, for good measure, Steve juts his hips forward more. That little action sent Bucky headfirst into an orgasm.

His mouth agape, his eyes shut, his fingers curled on Steve’s scalp—he’s completely lost in the sensations. Fireworks shoot off down his spine, and Steve’s name falls off his lips in a broken sob.

“That’s it, Buck.” Steve pulls out slow, and slides back in even slower. “You’re so good to me, God, you feel so good.”

“Mhm,” Bucky says, contentedly spacing out to the fuzzy feeling encasing him.

“Buck,” Steve growls, “Look at me.”

He does, but his eyes barely focus on the blue pair looking back at him, “Mhm?”

His pace stalls. “You alright?”

“Don’t stop,” Bucky whines, crossing his ankles and forcing Steve back in, “M’fine—S’just, really good. Need to catch up,”

“I can wait, baby,” Steve whispers, concern still in his tone and his scent.

No,” Bucky demands, kissing Steve hard, before putting on the softest voice and whimpering, “Fuck me through it.”

“My God,” Steve groans to himself, and slams into Bucky. The omega yelps, but kisses Steve before he can ask if it hurt him.

Steve had begun losing himself, too. In that primal, encompassing, alpha way, Steve realizes that the entire fucking world could have crashed and burned around him, and he wouldn’t have seen anything besides the look of pleasure he put on Bucky’s face, or have heard anything other than his own name breathed from his pleased omega.

And just when he thinks he’s controlling himself, he’s capable of stopping at any time, Bucky grabs his jaw and huffs, “Mark me, Steve.”

“No, no, no, no.” Steve finds himself whining. “No, don’t say that Buck. You can’t say that to me right now.”

“I want you to, Stevie.” Bucky’s fingertips skim his stubble. “Just like you said you would, right there, where everyone will see it.”

“Oh, God,” Steve groans, still not lessening his strokes though. He’s thinking with his cock, and holy shit did he want to listen to Bucky. He tries to warn him, as best he can, in his state of mind, “Buck,”

“I want you, forever.” Bucky whimpers, pulling Steve’s lips against his neck, “Make me yours,”

Steve presses a wet kiss there, feeling his own orgasm pending.

“Been thinkin’ about it for days, baby.” Bucky moans, “I made up my mind a long time ago, Steve. I want us. I want you.”

Steve runs his teeth against the skin there, it would feel so good.

Buck,” He gives him one final out—his voice broken and shaky.

Bucky’s fingers pull Steve’s hair gently, and he whimpers out, “You’re going to mark me, then you’re going to marry me, then you’re going to fuck me full of kids, Steve Rogers.”

And, well.

When he put it like that.

Steve’s teeth came down on that soft spot just below Bucky’s left ear.

Bucky came with the sweetest of moans, and Steve shot off into the condom, still allowing his knot to link the two of them together.

Bucky had never ever felt anything like that before. He came so hard that his legs started shaking, and his hands could barely hold onto the alpha. Wave after wave of pleasure hit him, and he quite literally found himself speechless. 

Steve let his tongue lave over the bite mark, tasting Bucky’s scent there stronger than he’d ever tasted it before. He’d bitten hard enough to break the skin, but there hadn’t been much blood, only a few drops that Steve lapped up with the sweetness that his scent glands were dampening his skin with.

Bucky whines, and pulls the alpha’s lips to his own, and the two of them spend a long long time kissing.

When they finally do separate, Steve looks down at the spot where his teeth had just been, observing the neat little c-shaped mark there. Bucky's body had already accepted it, and it'd begun to scar down to a neat little pink mark. 

"How's it look?" Bucky murmurs, his voice utterly content. 

"Fuckin' perfect." Steve licks the mark again for good measure, and just the little touch made Bucky's legs tremble. He smiles against it, "Absolutely fuckin' perfect, baby." 

"Good," He exhales, and frankly, all of his reservations had gone out with the breath.

He didn't feel any regret, not the tiniest bit of it. It felt so overwhelmingly right that he didn't even want to move. He wanted to stay exactly there, with Steve's giant body covering his, forever. 

"I'm going to make you happy, Buck. I promise." Steve murmurs quietly. "Just promise me you won't walk away from me again." 

"I won't." Bucky whispers back, linking their fingers together. "Ever. I promise." 

Steve props himself up, and Bucky finds himself whining at the rush of cold air that rushed down his front. The alpha drops a little kiss to his lips, but centers himself over the omega, looking right into his eyes. "You promise?"

"I promise." Bucky nods. 

A little smile pops onto Steve's lips. "You promise?"

"Yes, I promise." Bucky smiles back. 

"You can yell and scream and fight me all you want, Buck," Steve kisses his gently, "Just don't fuckin' leave me like you did. Drove me crazy." 

A pang of guilt runs through the omega, but he nods, "I promise, I won't, Stevie."

The way Bucky whimpers out the nickname made Steve shiver, and he was almost certain the omega felt his knot hardening inside him again. He dips his nose down and runs it against the newly formed mark, smelling Bucky's scent in earnest. "Say that again." 

"I promise, I won't, Stevie." Bucky hums, moaning at the feel of Steve's tongue on their mark. "God, I love you, Stevie." 

Steve brought his lips up to Bucky's lips and kisses him, hard and full, when he pulls away, their eyes meet, and he  hums, "I love you too, Buck." 


 

Chapter Text

"I'm not going to read it." Steve pouts, looking a lot like a petulant child. 

The alpha held the piece of paper out to his omega, waving at gently to get him to take it from him. With a sigh, Bucky did. 

"Then why did you make me look for it?" Bucky complained, folding it over. 

Steve got closer, boxing his lover against the kitchen island with large, heavy arms. "Because," he hums, brushing their noses together. "I want you to read it." 

Bucky felt his cheeks heat up, and turns his head to the side, away from him. Steve would always get him flustered, wouldn't he? Bonded, affianced, and even married, that blond managed to put color to his cheeks. He could see their living room, where his sister, Sharon, and the rest of their guests were sat about, sipping eggnog. Winnifred was holding Sam and Riley's baby girl in her arms, bouncing her about in front of the giant Christmas tree. 

"C'mon, Buck." Steve takes advantage of Bucky's exposed neck to slip the collar of his turtleneck down and nose his mark. "Won't you read it to me?" 

Bucky shivers at the warmth of his breath on his neck, and clears his throat. "Fine." 

Steve giggles excitedly, and leans back, eagerly waiting. 

Bucky clears his throat, and looks down at his own handwriting. 

"To our assembled board of directors, partners, and friends,

I am exceptionally grateful for everyone assembled today. We've put in a lot of hard work, long hours, and effort to built Barton & Barnes into what it is today. We would not have accomplished it without each and everyone one of you, putting in the time and giving us your absolute best. We've built an exceptional team here, and the success of this firm is completely due to just that, the people here, who make the work rewarding. I could not have asked for a better set of people to work with, and I thank you all for the time we've shared. It has been an honor and a great privilege to work alongside you all for the past ten years. 

With that said, I hereby announce my withdrawal from my positions as managing director and acting CFO of Barton & Barnes Finances, effective upon the announcement of my successor, when we reconvene in the New Year. I will remain a part of the board of directors, and serve the company as best I can in that capacity.

It is with the most reverence that I say that I wish you all the absolute best as we continue along this path of success, and look forward to seeing what the future holds for us all. 

Respectfully, 

James Buchanan Barnes, J.D." 

"You're going to make Clint cry." Steve mumbles, leaning forward to steal a kiss. "You're absolutely certain about this?" 

Bucky reaches up, fanning his fingers out at the side of Steve's bristly jaw. His wedding band, a simple black tungsten ring, shimmered against the blond spikes. "More than anything." 

Off to their side, a soft voice interrupts their kiss before they manage it, "Steve, darling, Joey's been looking—" 

Sarah Roger's voice tapered off, and when the two of them look over at her, she's got a soft little smile on her lips. Her blonde hair is pulled back into a low ponytail, and her big blue eyes are soft and precious. She reaches down, and with a huff, lifts the small boy up into her arms. 

Joey's got Bucky's steel eyes, but definitely Steve's bright blond hair. 

He's a little bundle of smiles, and Sarah smiles down at him too, "I think your daddies have a problem with staying out of trouble, don't you, Joey?" 

"Daddy?" Joey babbles. He'd just turned one, and was beginning to get more words out. His favorites were the names he'd decided represented his fathers. Daddy or Dada for Steve, and Papa for Bucky. 

"Oh, no, Joey-Boey." Steve croaks, deftly shifting the boy into his arms. "Your daddies don't find trouble, trouble finds them, okay?" He shoots his mother a wink, and she only smiles at him and places a patient hand on Bucky's arm. 

Out of the corner of his eye, Bucky sees Sharon commandeer the infant from his mother's arms, despite her protests. "Joey?" Bucky coos, watching the toddler peek up at his Papa's voice. "Would you like to go see Grandma Winnie?" 

The boy shoves two fingers into his mouth, but nods. 

"Quick," Steve grins, "Before she starts drinking." 

Bucky pats his arm disapprovingly, but grins at his little joke, and takes their baby into his arms. Bucky knows that scents don't work like this, but everytime he held onto Joseph, he thinks about just how much their son smelled like the two of them. He had Steve's clean pine, and Bucky's fresh linen, and always smelled so perfect that neither of them wanted to put him down once they'd picked him up. 

"Mom," Bucky hums, stalking up to her, she turns, and grins at the two of them, "You've got a visitor." 

Joey's smile returned, wide as ever, as he babbled, "Wynn!" 

Needless to say, his grandmother was absolutely enthralled. 

Across the living room, Sharon had returned baby Maya to her fathers, and sent a wink in Bucky's direction. Bless Sharon, that absolute evil genius. Bucky caught a glimpse of Steve, taking a glass of scotch in each hand over to the fireplace, where George and Clint were quietly talking. Sabrina was glancing down at her phone, before she hummed something to herself, and got up to head to the door. 

She yanks it open, Rebecca and Darcy are on the other side, carrying armfuls of tupperware dishes, presents, and baby bags. 

"Good Lord!" Sabrina laughs, taking as many things as she could. Bucky follows up behind, taking as many containers as he could manage in one hand, and one of his nieces in the other. 

"How nice of you to join us, Becca." Steve teases, lifting their eldest daughter Sadie into his arms and taking her baby bag from Becca. 

"Har har. Lets see you two handle four kids and half of a grocery store in one trip." Becca grumbles, then leans close to him and frowns, "It is not my fault you two decided to get a vacation house in the middle of Bum Fuck Nowhere, Vermont." 

Steve laughs, a deep belly laugh that made even grouchy, tired Becca laugh too. 

Once they'd gotten settled, Bucky couldn't help but smile as he looked out at his giant family. Sabrina and Sharon seemed to be hitting it off, Sab's cheeks a warm pink as she smiled behind her wineglass. Sam and Riley coddled their infant on the couch, smiling softly down at her. George and Clint looked less like businessmen in the warmth of the fireplace, and more like grumpy old men. Becca and Darcy kept counting their children, always losing track of at least one triplet. Winnifred and Sarah stood in front of the Christmas tree, pointing out the ornaments to baby Joey. 

And slowly, Bucky felt warm hand wrap around his shoulders, pulling him against a warm chest. The scent of pine and peppermint engulfed him. 

He turned around to face him, and Steve pouts, pointing up. Hung from the top of the doorway is a sprig of mistletoe. Bucky grins up at him, so the alpha hums, "I don't make the rules, Buck."

Bucky just scrunches his nose up at him, and tiptoes up to kiss him.