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Monster In A Daydream

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Bucky Barnes tentatively stood outside his apartment door. He was fidgeting with a worn blue rubber band, originally from a bunch of bananas, that sat on his wrist. Every few seconds he would snap it against his flesh until little, angry red marks would appear on the inside of his pale wrist. The snapping hurt like a bitch, but it helped him feel grounded and less like he was about to start hyperventilating or vomiting or digging his nails into his palms until they bled. 

He had been standing there for nearly ten minutes at this point, staring at the slope of the warped wood paneling of the door frame. He traced the way the white paint peeled up at the corners with his eyes and debated whether he could physically force his body to go back into the apartment. 

He snapped the rubber band again, hissing at the small burst of pain and wanting nothing more than to turn around and run as far away from his apartment doorway as humanly possible. He couldn’t handle this today (to be fair, he couldn’t handle it on most days). Today had been particularly bad, however. At work as a barista at a cosy little coffee shop a few blocks over, he had accidentally given a patron a hot coffee instead of the iced coffee they had ordered. Most customers would be understanding, simply requesting a fix and maybe not leaving a tip, but this customer had not been. The middle-aged man, balding and dressed in a sharp suit, had spent nearly ten minutes yelling at him. He had screamed until every head in the coffee shop had turned towards him, judging him silently and sneering in disgust. Bucky could easily ignore the judging looks, but the young man hated the yelling. It reminded him of his boyfriend, and the doorway to his apartment that he avoided like the plague. After the man had stormed off, having thrown the fixed version of his iced coffee (Bucky felt a deep set relief that it wasn’t the scalding hot cup), Bucky had spent his entire lunch break hysterically crying in the bathroom. He was sensitive beyond belief and could not avoid the tears that soaked down his cheeks and sobs that wracked his entire body. 

So no, it had not been a good day. It had been a bad day and bad days meant that he would snap the rubber band against his wrist even more frequently. Bad days meant he would try and make himself appear even smaller than he was. Bad days meant he would bow his head in submission at even the smallest hint of command in someone’s tone. Bad days meant the small amount of self preservation he possessed would fade away and he would take anything his master delt his way. 

No matter how much he hated it, he would take it like the perfect submissive he always tried to be. He wouldn’t fight back or yell or cry out, because he was trained well and deep down knew he deserved it.

The young man pulled the sleeves of his faded pastel blue sweater over his hands, trying to stop himself from snapping the rubber band on his wrist once more. If he gave into the self punishment anymore than he already had, he would be completely lost for the day. He wouldn’t treat himself with any form of self respect, only with the harsh edge of someone struggling so immensely that he could no longer have any other thought but how he could further harm himself.

He did this every day. That is, stand outside his apartment door, fiddling with his sweater or his hair or the padlocked leather collar on his neck. He seemed to always be covered in bruises, not the good kind, as he tried to stall even the slightest amount of time by standing there and wondering how he had screwed up his life so drastically.

He had moved back to New York on a whim. An eighteen year-old college student, bright eyed and ready to take on the world. It was the first time he had been free from his homophobic parents and abusive father and the stupid small town he had grown up in since moving away from Brooklyn when he was a young child. Often the memories of his first home felt like faded photographs. He could remember them somewhat, but he more remembered the emotions. The laughing with his best friend, who was basically his older brother, and the fun times they had together. The sunshine and smile on his lips. And the shouting and screaming and smashing bottles that haunted the walls of his tiny apartment. 

When they had moved, his father had promised to give up drinking. It was supposed to be a clean slate, a new start in a new town. But several years later, when Bucky had first come out, the drinking came back. And the smashed beer bottles come back and the beatings started. He still remembered the sting of the belt the first time his father had hurt him like it was a ghost living under his skin. 

The young man tipped his head down, letting his greasy locks of dark brown hair cover the entire left side of his face; and consequently cover the dark blues and purples set deep in his eye socket. However, the dark red cut, scabbing over on lower check, was not covered. Or the rope burn on neck. Or the blueish, greenish bite mark on his collarbone. 

Bucky used to take these marks as an intoxicating sign of possession from a lover. When he had first turned eighteen, he had given his submission to any man who had looked at him with lust-filled eyes. He hadn’t understood that it was something precious, to be cherished and only shared with those who deserved it. At 22, 2 and a half years into his relationship with Alexander, he was finally starting to see that he shouldn’t give his submission away to just anyone. It took time and trust. And he trusted Alexander. He had to trust him.  

Alexander Pierce was the only one who could love him. He was the only one who dealt with him being so useless and stupid and weak. The only one who helped him grow to be a better person, a better boyfriend and a better submissive. He was the only one who could love someone as disgusting as Bucky was. 

When he had first started college, he hadn’t felt this disgusting. Rather, he had been scared and alone, innocent and young. He had no one to turn to when things felt overwhelming and scary. So the teenager had found himself illegally drinking at gay nightclubs in The Village almost every weekend. It was the first place he had ever found where his homosexuality was celebrated and never considered a sin. It was a place where he felt like he could be himself. Even if it resulted in sleeping with strange men and putting himself in danger, he could at least be himself in a small way.

After countless unhealthy hookups, Bucky was feeling beyond burned out and meeting Alexander was a breath of fresh air. The man was confident and encouraging of the teenager. He was charming when he bought Bucky a drink on that first night, winking at the younger male knowing he was not old enough to legally be there. There was something about the way Alexander looked and acted and treated him that was enthralling to Bucky. It was caring and even condescending in a way. 

Alexander treated him like he was stupid and did not understand what was going on, like he needed someone older and more experienced to guide him. Bucky’s attraction towards the older man was more likely than not rooted in his own bad relationship with his father, so it was no surprise that he came out of his childhood with a daddy kink and desire for someone older than him to guide him in a relationship. It was embarrassing, but he couldn’t help the overwhelming need he had to be loved and cared for by someone else. 

When they first started playing together, Alexander had constantly praised Bucky for how good a sub he was. It was intoxicating, and like a drug he feel deeper and deeper into the relationship. Being praised made him happier than he had ever been in his life. 

When he would push one of the young man’s boundaries further and further, even when Bucky begged him not to break his hard limits, the man would explain that he did it out of love for Bucky. He told him that if he wanted to be a god sub he would let himself be pushed and if he loved Alexander, he would willingly do it. 

Later that year, when he had dropped out of college at Pierce’s request, he had felt like he was simultaneously thriving and drowning. He didn’t particularly want to drop out, he knew a degree was the key to his future and a good job with real money, but Alexander had persuaded him that it was his best option. Bucky was too dumb to succeed in school and they both knew it. He needed his boyfriend to support him, so why not speed up the process by dropping out. It wasn’t like he had any friends there that would miss him and the classes were too hard to manage alone. 

Without Alexander, he was capable of nothing. 

Taking a deep breath, the man reached out his hand to open the door to the apartment. He truly did not have the capacity for this right now, but he knew the longer he waited, the worse his punishment would be, both from himself and from Alexander. 

The moment he walked into the apartment, Bucky knew he wasn't alone. The television was blaring some stupid sitcom and there were two empty beer bottles sitting on the coffee table. The room smelled like take out burgers, french fries heavy with grease, bad cologne, and a stench of harder alcohol than the two cans of beer could produce alone. 

It was dark in the entryway, the only light flicker flashing from the blaring television and reflecting on a metal bowl Alexander kept his keys in by the doorway. He wanted to go hide in the bathroom, the only place in the entire apartment he could be alone, but he instead he bent down to take his boots off. Placing them neatly in the corner where the wall and door met, he then made his way towards the kitchen.

Alexander was there, the bright light from the refrigerator reflecting in his round glasses as he grabbed another beer from the very top shelf. When he leaned back from the fridge, popping the can open with a loud metal click, his eyes automatically landed on the younger man over the frothy foam spilling over the sides of the can. 

"There you are, pet. I thought you'd be late again," The man paused, sneering before he let out a depraved chuckle. “Too bad you weren’t late, I would have loved to punish your sweet ass.” 

The man tipped the can back, rancid alcohol dripping from the corner of his cracked lips and down the crevices of his wrinkled skin. He was wearing a light grey suit and a white shirt, the top two buttons undone and the tie draped lazily around his shoulders. 

“Then again,” he snarled, glancing at the shiny gold watch on his left wrist, “it is 8:04 and I seem to remember that your curfew on weeknights is 8:00.” 

The man’s teeth glinted as Bucky sputtered, failing at trying to explain that he had spent the extra few minutes removing his shoes and walking to the kitchen. However, no words would come out of his mouth and Pierce grabbed his jaw before he could force any words to come to the surface. He laughed again, and then spoke with mock sweetness. “Now, now, pet. I think I will have to punish you after all.” Like a light switch, his tone turned to a growl. “On your knees, boy.”

Bucky didn't have to be told twice. He sank down to his knees the second the words passed the older man’s lips, bowing his head automatically in submission. 

He stared at the spot where his faded jeans connected with the floor, a gum wrapper crumpled up next his knee cap and a scratch in the shiny hardwood. Bucky dutifully ignored the memories of him being dragged to the bedroom by his hair and clawing at the floor to slow his angry boyfriend that bubbled to his mind. He kept his eyes down and his breathing even. He was Alexander’s submissive and he would do all that he could to keep him happy. He didn’t really want this. He wanted to in bed curled up with a tub of mint chocolate chip ice cream and a fuzzy blanket. He wanted to take a warm bath or read his favorite book or simply breathe without having to control every sharp intake of air he took in. 

“Look at me, slut.” Pierce forced his head up by grabbing a fistful of long brown hair and tearing it upwards. Bucky bit his bottom lip, gnawing into the flesh until little beads of blood bubbled to the surface and dripped onto his chin. He wanted to remind Alexander that he was not allowed to look at him without permission, that he was being a good boy, a good submissive. But speaking out of turn was against the rules, so he held his tongue and let the blood drip down the slope of his chin and down his neck and over his rapidly bobbing adam's apple and land in little splatters on his faded light wash jeans. 

Slowly he lifted his eyes from the floor, deciding that listening and breaking the rules was the lesser of two evils. He was already being punished for being ‘late’, he didn’t need disobedience to add to his punishment. 

“You’re absolutely worthless.” The man spat the words like they were acid on his tongue. He tightened his grasp on Bucky’s hair, twisting and pulling until the young man felt like every individual strand was being pulled from his scalp.

 His body screamed at him to get up, punch the man in the face and run as far away as humanly possible. But he knew Alexander was right. He was completely and utterly worthless. He was lucky Alexander loved him. He was lucky he had a master to serve and he was lucky that somebody gave him the time of day. If Alexander didn’t love him, didn’t let Bucky serve him with everything he had, he would be all alone in this world. He wasn’t ready to be all alone. He couldn't be all alone. He needed Alexander. He needed someone to love him and give him attention and even pretend to care for a single second. 

If he didn’t have somebody to love, and furthermore a dominant to serve, he would simply fall apart; additionally, he would hate himself even more than he hated himself now. 

Bucky did not condemn those who lived a life without ever exploring BDSM dynamics. In fact, he congratulated them in some strange sense, for being more conventionally normal than himself. For not having to navigate relationships and dynamics in a way that he craved like a drug, but others sneered at him for enjoying. They didn’t understand that his submission was about being in control enough to give up control. (Bucky did not feel in control right now. He did not feel in control as Alexander used one hand to pull his hair, and the other to pry his jaw open. He did not feel in control as the man’s throbbing, rock hard cock was pushed into his mouth and his hair was used to ruthlessly fuck his face.)

Spit dripped from the corners of Bucky’s mouth, landing in little drops on his jeans. “I wouldn’t have to punish you if you behaved yourself, pet.” Alexander’s voice was condescending, as if he were explaining something to a small child. “This really is your fault, you just have to be better.” 

The hand that had previously been pulling at his hair came down to rub away the tears rolling down Bucky’s skin in fat drops. “You know I love you, pet, I just want you to be better,” He paused, pulling away completed and fixing his tie. He smoothed the fabric under the pads of his fingers, adjusting himself to appear as if he had not just forced his boyfriend on to his knees and fucked his face mercilessly. “I do this because I care.”

Bucky scrunched his nose, wanting to protest or scream or cry or get up and run away. But he knew Alexander was right. This was for his own good. It had to be for his own good. 

It was later that night, in fact it was most likely the beginning of the next morning, when Bucky found his thoughts too unbearable to stand anymore. Every time he settled his head on the old lump of blankets he used as a pillow (pets didn’t deserve to sleep in beds), he would shoot back up within a single second. 

On most nights he would clamp his hand over his mouth, trying to stop his hyperventilating from waking the sleeping man across the room. Or he would snap the rubber band over and over again, watching little red lines raise on his wrist. Or push at his bruises until they blossomed even bigger, like violets growing under his skin. Or he would softly bang his head against the hardwood floor until he forgot. The pain always made him forget. 

But tonight, the pain was doing nothing. The lines on his wrist didn’t make him feel numb, they made him feel pathetic. And he couldn't stop thinking about the taste of Alexander’s cock in his mouth or the words afterwards or the fact the Bucky wanted to forgive the man even though he knew what Peirce was doing was so undeniably wrong.

If Bucky were anyone else (maybe a sweet young girl, newly eighteen and wearing a floral dress on a park bench; or a middle-aged woman pushing her grocery cart at the supermarket, with her toddler in the little seat of the cart), people would notice the bruises. They would notice the way he shook like a leaf when others touched him, or the rubber band he snapped at his wrist whenever he was nervous. They would notice that something was wrong, that he needed help. They would help him, if he looked like the typical victim. (Bucky cringed at that word the second it crossed his thoughts). 

But because Bucky was a young gay man, wearing effeminate clothing and a collar padlocked around his neck, people only looked at him with disapproving glares. Middle-aged women steered their children away from him in the supermarket and eighteen year-old girls on park benches looked down at him for marring their innocence and femme appearances with his kink. 

They didn’t understand that he needed as much help as they would in that situation. He was as stuck as any woman had ever been. But if they did discover he felt trapped, they asked why he didn’t fight back, why didn't he leave; and then they would look down at him for being weak and not living up to a ridiculous standard of masculinity. 

The bed creaked as Alexander rolled over, groaning loudly as his joints popped. His body seemed tired and worn even within his sleep and Bucky couldn’t happen to cringe at that thought. At 52 years old, the man was old enough to be his father. And at first that had been the appeal. At such a young age, Bucky had wanted an older man to treat him right (his father never had, after all). He wanted somebody to protect him. (Alexander never protected him, Alexander hurt him). 

The man groaned again and Bucky shuddered. Quickly and without thinking he shaikly stood up, pulling the blanket around his neck and wrapping it like a cape. His bare feet tiptoed across the cool hardwood as he made his way to the hallway bathroom. He held his breath as he walked, scared that any sound would wake the man and result in a punishment. Both his mind and body could not handle a punishment at this moment. 

When the young man finally made it to the bathroom, he clicked the lock into place before letting his body relax even the slightest. 

Staring in the mirror, little fluorescent lights reflected in his large dilated pupils, Bucky’s entire body cringed. He looked like absolute shit, as if he had been run over by an 18-wheeler or slept outside during a hurricane. His greasy, long hair stuck up widely in every direction, yet it was matted in the back. The bruises on his face and neck were garish and a sickly purple color. The side of his face that was not bruised wasn’t much better, large bags sitting deep in the eye socket and crusty dried tears on his cheeks. His eyes looked feral and his body shook and quivered every few seconds like he was an animal backed into a corner. 

He almost didn’t recognize the person in the reflection and for a second, Bucky wanted to smash the mirror until his knuckles were bloody and the glass was as cracked as he felt. He wanted some sort of release, some sort of tangible measurement of the twisted mess in his mind. But he was terrified that the sound of shattering glass would wake his boyfriend, and furthermore what the punishment would be for breaking the mirror. So he stuffed his fist into his mouth, gnawing at the knuckles and willing himself not to make a sound. 

With the other hand, he shakily rifled through the topmost drawer of the vanity. Finding what he was looking for within a few seconds, Bucky slowly brought the bright green safety scissors up to his hair. 

He loved his long hair more than anything else, it made him feel confident and beautiful and desirable and fucking sexy. But he would no longer allow his hair to be used as a weapon against him. He would no longer let Alexander pull his mouth onto his cock by the root of his long locks or drag him to bed by his bun or even touch it in any way. He couldn’t let Alexander ruin his love of his hair. His hair was supposed to be for himself, it wasn’t for Alexander. And if that man pulled him by the hair one more single time, he would snap. 

Long strands of dark brown hair landed in little lumps in the sink as Bucky hacked away with the safety scissors. The first cut was slow and methodical, but as time went on it became more rushed and frantic. He needed the hair gone as quickly as possible. He could feel Alexander’s hands pulling him and the weight in his mouth and semen on his lips and bruises on his face. He felt like he was drowning, like every time he breathed in his lungs were slowly filling with water. He couldn’t do this anymore. He needed it gone. He needed to be ok again. 

When all the hair was gone, Bucky stared at himself in the mirror once again. His hair was short and choppy. Paired with the now exposed bruising he looked even messier, like he would fall over if a breeze hit him the wrong way. 

But the blanket tied around his neck made him look like a superhero and for a single second, Bucky let himself fantasize about being a hero. The bruises were from defeating villains, the bags and shaking were from staying up all night to fight crime. People would love him. 

The young man lowered his gaze, staring at his bare feet on the floor. No one loved him currently and he shouldn’t get too involved in a fantasy. He should focus on making Alexander happy and being the best boyfriend he could possibly be. 

Bucky trudged back to the bedroom, lowering his shaky body onto the lump of blankets. He knew there would be hell to pay in the morning for the impromptu haircut. But as he listened to Alexander's grunting and groaning as he drifted to sleep, he let himself push it to the back of his mind. And for the time being, he let his worries go in lieu of falling into a fitful, restless sleep. 


“Bucky?” The young man’s head snapped up at the nickname he hadn’t heard in what felt like forever. The name he hadn’t heard since he was a really little kid, before he had moved away from Brooklyn to the stupid small town in the middle of nowhere.

The name that was spoken in small whispers in 24 hour diners when his older and far more mature best friend had snuck him out of his apartment late at night (away from his fighting parents and the smashing of a beer bottle near his head when his dad was drunk). Or shrieking and giggling in delight in a bowling alley even when he was losing, but didn’t care because he had his best friend at his side. Or at his elementary school science fair, when his best friend was the only person who came to see his project (his parents were once again fighting and didn’t have time for something like a stupid science fair).

It took a few seconds for Bucky to react, because only one person in the entire world called him Bucky and he was so used to Pierce calling him James. He hated that name and it made him want to vomit, because his parents always called him James when they were upset with him, but Alexander had made his opinion on his preferred name very clear. “Bucky is a child’s name. I’ll call you James.” Or when he was being dismissive of his sub Bucky was just “boy” (when he was being cruel or during punishment, Bucky was “slut” or “whore”).

It had been the longest time since he had heard that name and the man in front of him did not look like the teenager who used to call him that. Stevie was small and short. There were a little over six years between them, but they had practically always been the same size (however it was clear Stevie was significantly older by the mature way he acted).

And if the man was not Stevie, how could he possibly know such an intimate way of referring to the barista in front of him? 

“Hey, are you ok?” the man, it was Steve now he reminded himself while glancing at the name scribbled on the side of the paper coffee cup, asked tentatively (as he tipped a handful of change into the tip jar). His hand lingered by the jar for a second as if he wanted to reach out and grab Bucky’s own hand or run the pads of his fingers over the bruising on the young man’s face or even give him a hug. 

Bucky wanted to laugh at the question. He had not been ok in the longest of times, but he kept his expression strained and neutral. This was not Stevie and he was no longer nine years old. This was Steve, someone who was a stranger outside of his memories. 

The man standing in front of him looked so different than the scrawny fifteen-year-old he remembered. He was about thirty years old now. His smile was bright and he had medium length blonde hair, wet and slicked back. Due to it being 10:30 in the morning, Bucky wouldn’t be surprised if this was the man’s morning cup of coffee and he had one of those laid back jobs that didn’t start at the crack of dawn. The Stevie he knew never liked schedules very much and was often late to school; though this was often due to the fact that he would walk a small Bucky Barnes to the elementary school before heading off to the middle school.

The man was wearing a short sleeved off white button up, showing off his huge, bulging muscles, and a pair of pinstripe black and grey pants. There was a sketchbook tucked under his arm and a pencil tucked behind his ear. Little specks of graphite were smudged on his cheeks and the man looked like an artist. One of those hopeless romantics that spent hours sketching on a park bench. He was the type of man Bucky wanted to curl up under the covers with or go on long walks or share milkshakes with. 

Embarrassed and chastising himself, Bucky glared down at the counter, tracing his eyes over a puddle of spilled almond milk and a crumpled receipt next to the tip jar. He regretted cutting his hair out of a stupid, angry rage. Having long hair had always made him feel invisible, and in this moment he regretted his inability to hide bruises and sad eyes and little frowns with his hair. 

On top of that, he was terrified of Alexander’s reaction. The man had been gone by the time Bucky had woken up, but when he had gone to the kitchen to eat a quick breakfast, there had been a post-it note on the fridge. The note had rudely warned him that the man had in fact seen Bucky’s impromptu haircut and had not been happy. Bucky was not to eat anything all day and maybe, just maybe that would appease Alexander from punishing him. 

Uncomfortable and not wanting to think of Alexander while at work, Bucky tugged at the strings of his bright green apron (trying to cover the heavy collar on his neck).


Steve traced the action with his eyes, stumbling over his words when he noticed the collar. “Oh… ohhh…” He drew out the word, shaking his head in a seemingly understanding manner. He turned his head to make sure he was the only person on the line before saying, “ I don’t want to overstep and I may be reading the situation really, really wrong. But I would hate myself if I didn’t say something, so just make sure your dom is doing good aftercare, kid,” The word ‘kid’ slid off his lips like no time had passed at all. “I don’t want you to get hurt. You might not know this, but even if you like it in the moment, you still need aftercare to make sure you’re not hurt emotionally or physically.”

Steve’s eyes were big and round with concern and for a second Bucky saw hints of his childhood best friend peaking through. The man opened his wallet again, pulling a crisp twenty dollar bill out and dropping it into the top jar. “In case you need a little extra for some self care,” he explained, grabbing his coffee cup and making his may to a large booth adjacent to the window, but still within eyeshot of the counter Bucky was working at. He winked as he sat down, opening up his sketchbook and tearing open three packets of sugar at once for his green tea. 

Every so often during his shift, Bucky would glance up to see if that man had left yet. And every time he did, he was surprised to find the man still there (sketching away and sipping at his now cold green tea). Bucky couldn’t help but let a blush tint his bruised cheeks when he saw that the man had not left. He was a stranger to him, but feeling his presence in the cafe made him feel less alone in even the smallest of ways. 

When the man finally got up to leave, he stopped by the counter once more. “You know, Bucky, maybe you could come over sometime and we could catch up. I haven’t seen you in what feels like forever.” He spoke softly and shifted awkwardly on his feet. 

Bucky wanted nothing more than to take Steve up on his offer, but he knew he never actually could. Alexander would never allow it, and he owed it to the man to be a good boyfriend and a good a submissive. 

When Bucky shook his head no, it looked like a tiny part of Steve deflated. But the man simply smiled again before saying, “Alright kid, maybe another time.”

“How fucking dare you.” Alexander tried to get a grip on Bucky’s now short hair and the man cried out as Pierce’s nails dug into his scalp, forcing his head backwards and his naked ass out. 

“Oh shut up, whore,” Pierce snarled down at the captive man in his grip, slapping his ass and spitting on his own cock. “You’re lucky I’m preparing you at all after this little stunt you pulled.” 

The man slammed into him, using only the small amount of spit as lube. And for a second, Bucky feared he would do the impossible and rip in half. His ass felt like it was on fire. The burning and stretching and tearing was too much. It was too fucking much. 

When the young man went to cry out again, fat tears dripping down his face and sobs already wracking his body, a large, filthy hand was clamped over his mouth. (The other hand was still pulling at his short hair.)

“I said. Shut. Up. Whore.” Every word was detached, punctuated by a tug at his hair and Pierce slamming further into his torn ass. “You lost the right to speak like a human the minute you decide to be a little bitch instead and disobeyed me by messing up your pretty little head of hair. It was one of the only good things about you and now you’re as useless as a dumb dog in heat.”

Blood dripped down Bucky’s ass and onto the back of his stinging thighs. Everytime Alexander’s skin slammed against his own, the blood would smear until cum quickly joined the scarlet mixture dripping down his skin. (Alexander never used a condom, he had complete disregard for Bucky’s safety and loved the way it felt to release inside the young man). 

The man pulled out, wiping his spent cock on Bucky’s red ass and the young man started to scramble away. He needed to get away. He needed to breathe. The blood and cum felt sticky against his skin and he needed to leave desperately. To clean himself up and take a shower, washing away only the physical remains but not the feelings of being dirty. 

But before Bucky could fully retreat, like the wounded dog he felt like, the hand in his hair was throwing him onto the floor. He landed with a large smack and he went to cry out, before silencing himself, terrified of breaking Alexander's rule of his loss of speaking privileges. 

“I don’t fucking think so, you little bitch.” Pierce snarled like a predator, “I can’t trust you to not go running away from me anymore like a good dog. You proved that you are rotten to the core, always breaking the rules.” 

The man stood to his full height from where he had previously been crouching over Bucky in order to intimidate him further. Placing a foot on Bucky’s chest to keep him in place, causing Bucky to sputter for air, the man reached over to the bedside table. Using his body to shield Bucky’s view, he removed an item from the topmost drawer. 

Leaning back over the cowering figure, Alexander clipped the metal end of the dog leash around Bucky’s collar. 

“On your knees, bitch.” The man tugged at the leash, causing Bucky to reel upward. “It’s time for me to have dinner.”

Bucky’s stomach involuntarily rumbled at the mention of food. He had followed his boyfriend’s rules and not eaten all day. But Alexander only laughed. “It’s my dinner, not yours. Bad dogs don’t get fed.” (Bucky later found out that bad dogs got their mouth stuffed onto their master’s cock as their master ate their own food. Bucky hated being a bad dog.)

That night, Bucky’s blankets were confiscated (his clothing had never been returned from earlier in the day).

His hands were bound together by thick rope and his leash was connected firmly to the foot of the bed. 

“Now you look like a real bitch.” Alexander laughed, spitting on him before changing into his pajamas and getting into the bed. Bucky wanted nothing more than to be in a bed, but he couldn’t help but think that sleeping on the floor alone was better than in a bed with an angry Alexander.

Unable to wipe the spit off of his face due to his bound hands, Bucky rubbed the side of his face against the cool hardwood floor, trying to clear the spit. A low whine escaped from his throat as the glob of spit only dripped into his eye instead of transferring to the hardwood. 

A low chuckle echoed through the room. “I can’t take you out right now, puppy. If you pee all over the floor like the nasty little bitch you are, I’ll have to punish you, so be a good dog and keep it in until I can walk you in the morning.”

The words made Bucky's whining stop instantaneously, humiliation creeping into his entire being from the dehumanizing words. And as if Pierce could smell the fear in the air, he added a condescending, “Good boy. Now go to sleep, bitch.”

(Bucky did not sleep until his eyes were no longer able to stay open and the sound of Alexander's snoring filled the air).

Bucky was kept tied to the bed for the entirety of his day off from work. It was also Alexander's day off, and the man spent the entirety of the day bustling around the apartment ‘working’. Every so often, the man barreled into the room to ‘look for something’ and ‘accidentally’ kicked the man tethered to the bed. 

Early in the day, when Bucky’s bladder was pulsing and nearly bursting it was so full, Bucky’s whine filled the small room. The man knew not to talk so he tried to get across the fact that he needed to pee badly, by only whining. 

After 15 minutes of the noises Alexander took pride in unhooking the leash from the bed as slow as humanly possibly. He walked Bucky to bathroom like he was a literal dog, making him squat over the drain in the bathtub to relieve himself. Bucky had never felt more humiliated in his life, but he couldn't help but moan at the pleasure he received from releasing his bladder all over the bottom of the bathtub like the disgusting, dirty dog he knew he was in that moment. 

At some point later in the day, close to dinner he assumed, when Bucky’s entire body ached from staying in the same position for far too long, Alexander placed a dog bowl full of water in front of the boy. Humiliated, Bucky refused to drink it at first. But quickly his thirst won out and the young man leaned forward to lap at the water with his tongue. Alexander patted his head and called him a ‘good boy’ as water spilled down his chin and dripped down his naked front. (Bucky did not feel human).


 “You look starving, Bucky.” Bucky’s head snapped up at the statement. Standing in front of him was the man from the other day, the one who seemed to care too much about a long lost childhood best friend, Steve. 

He was wearing a cable knit dark blue sweater, making his eyes pop, and dark black skinny jeans. As always, he had his sketchbook balanced between his arm and torso and a pencil tucked behind his blonde hair. His face had a concerned expression on it and his eyes looked sad. 

“I um…” Bucky mumbled, “I guess I’m a little hungry,” Bucky lied straight through his teeth. He wasn’t ‘a little hungry’, he was fucking starving. The last thing he had eaten was the dog bowl half full of mushy cereal earlier the previous day. It had barely kept him satisfied, especially with Alexander’s taunting simultaneously making him nauseous as he scarfed down the disgusting food, and he could feel the hunger deep in the bones. However, Bucky could not admit this to Steve and he let the conversation lull into silence. He would not admit he was hungry. Not to this man, and not to anyone. He could deal with a little hunger, it wasn’t going to kill him or anything.

Sensing the awkward silence developing between the two, Steve stumbled to order before someone joined the line. “Can I please have a green tea, and a, uh.” The man scanned the bakery case for a second, before pointing out a cluster of baked goods. “Two of those lemon cake pop thingys.” Bucky laughed at the description and Steve smiled, flashing pearly white teeth and the tops of his gums. “I’m only 29, but all my friends call me grandpa because I know literally nothing about the modern world we live. I have a bit of 20’s obsession, which doesn’t work out well with the whole gay thing….” He paused for a second, cocking his head before he added. “Also the whole dominant thing either. I probably wouldn’t survive in the actual 20’s now that I think about it, but I can dream.”

Bucky’s ears perked up as Steve continued speaking. 29 was definitely older than he was, the two were born in entirely different decades after all. But 29 was far younger than Alexander was. (Bucky knew he shouldn’t be comparing Steve to his boyfriend, but he couldn’t help it. Steve was young and gay and sweet… and a dominant.)

Trying to distract himself, Bucky retrieved the cake pops from the bakery case. Noting that another patron had joined the line, he hastily handed them over to the man. He took the smoothed out stack of cash in return, quickly depositing it in the register and handing Steve his change. (Steve dropped the remaining 4 dollars and 53 cents into the tip jar with a shy, yet confident smile.) 

Before Steve walked away to retrieve his tea from the pick up counter, he started talking with a sense of purpose and conviction. “I know you must have a break coming up soon,” he started, twiddling the bag containing the cake pops in his hand. “Come and talk to me over there.” He pointed to his usual spot of the booth near the window. “It’s important.” he added, before promptly walking away from the counter and leaving no room for the young man to argue. 

For some people that would have turned them off from this relationship, but to Bucky it only made him feel comforted. He was in his safe place when he took subtle commands from sweet people. He didn’t want room for options and the reckless feeling of possibilities, he wanted instructions and guidance. And in a strange way, from the few times they had talked, Steve already knew this. 

Sunshine streamed through the window, making Steve’s blond hair appear even more shiny and reflecting in the pupils of his large blue eyes. Little yellow cake pop crumbs sat at the corner of his lips and Bucky watched as the man’s tongue darted out and caught the crumbs. Steve winked when he caught Bucky staring. His face flushed and his eyes darted down towards the table. He fiddled with the stick of his own half-eaten cake pop, trying hard to not stuff it into his mouth no matter how hungry he felt. 

“So,” Steve started, folding his hands over his open sketch book on the table. “I don’t know if this is too forward, but I really want to get to know you more.” The man’s eyes glanced at the collar before continuing. “I know you’re not available or anything, but you’re so cute, doll, and I would hate if I never talked to you.”

Bucky’s entire face was bright red and he stared at his lap, trying to hide his embarrassment. At first he wanted to snap his rubber band, but he quickly realized that he did not need to feel pain in order to focus in this moment. All he needed in this moment was to look into Steve’s eyes and listen to the soothing voice and just feel safe. 

“Look at me.” The words were sharp yet kind, but they cleary had their desired effect when Bucky’s head snapped up and he stared straight into Steve’s eyes. The man smiled and nodded his head knowingly. “You like that, don’t you? When I tell you what to do.” Bucky was not responding, but Steve was having none of it. “Answer me.” Once again, Bucky found it hard not to listen to the man and he quickly nodded his head. 

Words were feeling hard for Bucky at the moment, so he simply let Steve continue talking (using nonverbal cues to express his emotions when appropriate). 

“You know, Bucky” Steve looked a little apprehensive, as if he was scared to overstep a boundary or get something wrong. “submission doesn't always have to be sexual and there are tons of forms of nonsexual and even platonic submission. I am definitely looking for more with you in the long run and I know there is something deeply wrong with your relationship now, but I’m not going to force you to tell me what’s wrong, or do anything at all with me.” 

The man tapped his fingers on the closed sketch book before flipping to what appeared to be a specific page and scribbling an additional few things on the page. When he was done adding to it, Steve passed the paper over and Bucky couldn't help but gasp. 

There on the paper, under a neatly scrawled phone number, was the most beautiful sketch of Bucky he could imagine. Drawing Bucky looked happy and carefree, his head tipped back laughing. “That’s my phone number if you ever need me, and don’t hesitate to call me. Also I thought you might enjoy the sketch, I’m an art teacher and I couldn’t help drawing the most beautiful man I’ve seen in my life.” 

When Bucky returned from work that night, the leash was automatically clipped back onto this collar. He was forced onto his knees, where dogs always belonged according to Alexander, and his head was pushed forward into a mush of soggy cereal in the same dog bowl as the day before. 

Bucky didn’t feel as hungry as he had the day before, delicious cake pop sitting heavy in his stomach, so he turned up his nose at the bowl. Not having it, Alexander clipped the leash to the bottom of a stool in the kitchen. Snarling, the man forced Bucky to stay there, cowering like a kicked puppy, until he finally ate the entirety of the soggy cereal. The milk tasted sour and he wouldn’t put it past Pierce to feed him rotten milk on purpose, finding every way possible to make him feel sick. 

Alexander chuckled at the appearance of milk spilling down Bucky’s chin. “Not the type of white substance I want on your pretty little cock sucking lips, bitch.” He pulled Bucky’s hair, trying to get a better look and causing the milk to fall faster. “But I can’t have you starving on me before I have my fun, so milk will have to do for now.”

(That night as Alexander slammed into his ass over and over again, until it was bloody and torn, Bucky wished he truly was starving to death.)


The next time Bucky saw Steve, it was seconds after he threw out a handful of bloody tissues that he had stuffed (clean) into his boxers that morning. Alexander hadn’t been looking, rather unclipping the leash and ordering Bucky to get ready for the day so neither of the men were late. 

Alexander wanted Bucky to be his personal pet, never leaving the house. But work was the exception, because Alexander depended on the extra money from Bucky’s job to support his alcohol addiction and he wouldn’t jeopardize the added income for anything. (Bucky never saw a cent of that money, trapping him even more in the relationship). 

It was like he was caught red handed, the blood on his own hands not helping the situation, as the soft thud of the tissues falling into the trash echoed throughout the men’s room. Bucky felt like the bathroom was spinning and he wanted to vomit. 

Their eyes met in the mirror above the sink as Bucky washed the red blood and sticky dried cum off of his hands (the ‘employees must wash hands sign taunted him in his peripheral vision).

“You don’t deserve this.” Steve's voice was sweet as honey as moved his large hands to catch Bucky’s smaller ones in his own. Steve used his nails to scratch the last dried patches of semen of off his hands and together they watched the white substance swirl and catch in the grate over the drain (meant to catch dirt and debris, but definitely not your boyfriend’s cum).

Steve dried every one of Bucky’s fingers individually with a paper towel, running the pads of his thumb gently over the skin. 

When they were dry, the man tapped the collar. “This is not the meaning of submission. You should never willingly give yourself away to someone who is hurting you, kid.”

His voice was pained and Bucky sighed, wanting nothing more than to let this near complete stranger take him away from Alexander (take care of him). But he knew it could never happen. He was too worthless for Steve. Too broken. And he belonged to Alexander, not Steve, and Alexander liked him that way. He liked that Bucky was so broken down, he would do anything to serve him. Anything to make him happy. 

His breathing was frantic. He wanted to run. Escape this bathroom and Steve’s impossible promise of safety (of love).

“Please, sweetheart,” Steve begged. “let me help you. I know that you’re about to be done with your shift and you can come over. I can help you relax.” Noticing how creepy that sounded, the man quickly added. “Of course, only with your consent and nothing sexual would happen. I just want to help you calm down by giving you something I know you need.”

Bucky was terrified, not wanting to get in over his head. But he was also wound so tight. He felt like he might explode. He needed to escape and maybe Steve’s promise to help was the best way to achieve his goal. 

The young man snapped the rubber band on his wrist once before nodding his head. “Alright…” he started shakily, “Just give me a few minutes to finish up my shift.”

“Of course, sweetheart.” Steve’s smile was as bright as the moon. “I’ll be waiting in the booth by the window.”

(Bucky felt nothing but guilt as he slipped out the backdoor of the coffee shop, rather than go to the booth near the window.)

When he got home from work, Bucky was pleased to discover that the punishment was officially over. There was no leash in sight and instead, Pierce calmly called the young man over to the couch. For a second, Bucky thought the man would let him sit on the soft fabric, but Alexander pointed to the floor with one wrinkled finger and had him kneel directly in front of him. 

“If you were a better sub, I wouldn’t have to do this to you.” Alexander started calmly, reaching out and running a hand through Bucky’s short hair. He tugged once or twice to show his displeasure, but the contact was otherwise soothing (as if reminding the boy what he was missing out on when he was bad).

“I wish I didn’t have to do this to you. But you understand why I have to, though, don’t you James?” Bucky did not respond, keeping his eyes trained on the ground. He understood that Alexander was only doing this because he loved him. He shouldn't have cut his hair without permission and the man should have been punishing him even worse. He should not have been playing with his hair or pretending like Bucky was a good sub. No, he was a bad sub and they both knew it. 

“Bad submissives get punished, James, and I would be a bad dom if I didn’t punish bad behavior. But I don’t want to punish you. You can be good for me, can’t you boy?”

Bucky nodded his head slowly. He knew Alexander was right. Bucky deserved the punishment because he was bad. If he were a good sub, Pierce wouldn’t be forced to punish him. He would be better if it was the last thing he did, because he could not stand disappointing Pierce. And he did not want to be bad. He could not be bad.

When they were finished talking, Alexander left Bucky kneeling on the floor for the rest of the afternoon. His knees ached and his muscles screamed  at him to get up and walk around. But Bucky would be good, he needed to be good, so he stayed kneeling on the ground until Alexander made his way back hours later. 

The man was holding a glass of ice water, condensation pooled on the edge of the cup and a bright blue straw plunked in between the ice cubes. Bucky’s throat was raw and parched and almost without realizing it, his hand shakily reached for the glass. 

“Now, now boy.” Pierce’s voice was fake sweet and condescending, like he was talking to a child. “I was going to give this to you James, but I can not reward you moving from position without permission.”

Bucky wanted s to whine, but he bit his tongue, knowing it would make it worse. Alexander was right of course, if he had been good he would’ve gotten to drink. 

“That’s a good boy.” Alexander’s wrinkled hand ruffled his short hair, and Bucky worked hard not to flinch away from the touch. “We’ll try again with the water, tomorrow.”

With a flick of his wrist, the glass of water was upturned all over Bucky’s head. Ice cubes hit his scalp and the freezing cold liquid riveted down his skin.

“Don’t make me mad, boy,” Alexander’s voice was now scarily deep. “I gave you everything, James, and I can easily take it away.”



Chapter Text

“So, tell me about him. He must be a very special man and dominant to have snagged the heart of a fella as great as you.” Steve broke the comfortable silence that had settled at the little booth near the window during Bucky’s lunch break. The man’s voice was calm and composed, but Bucky could tell he was secretly nervous by the way his fingers drummed against his open sketchbook. 


He had previously been sketching, and the yellowed paper of the open book was filled with drawings of Bucky with different facial expressions. One had him happy with a huge lopsided grin, another depicting him looking so excited and thrilled to be on the yellowed paper- all big eyes and toothy smiles. A few sketches had Bucky frowning or even crying, which made real life Bucky also want to frown or maybe even cry because he didn’t want Steve to see him feeling so bad. 


Steve tended to draw Bucky whenever they were together and it went as far as the man buying an entire sketchbook to fill with the soft features of Bucky’s face and all his different facial expressions. Most of the time he found it quite uncomfortable to watch. Alexander had trained him to not want attention on him for longer than necessary, always keeping his head down submissively and only talking when his boyfriend spoke directly to him. 


But sometimes when he caught a glance of the pages of the man’s sketchbook, it made him blush bright red and stammer when he next spoke. (Other times, when the sketches depicted cuts and black eyes and sad faces and tears, it made Bucky frown or want to scream or in a strange way receive a hug from the man or curl into a ball on the soft sheets of Steve’s bed and have his hair gently pet. But he always kept his face stony and his voice quiet when Steve’s eyebrows shot up at him, as if he were questioning the young man on where the concerning injuries came from).


Bucky stuffed the half eaten vegetable sandwich in his hand into his mouth, partially in order to avoid talking about his boyfriend, since he really had nothing good to say about him, and also because he truly was starving. Regardless of his punishment being over for more than two weeks now, Alexander was still cutting back on his food intake. 


When he had gone to sit at the table that morning before work, Pierce had sneered at him over his newspaper and pointed at the floor with an outstretched finger. “Do you really think you deserve to sit at the table and eat? After everything you’ve done to me, do you really want to test my patience, James?” Bucky couldn’t ignore the fact that the man’s voice was calm as he swirled a spoon in his tea and stared at Bucky over the top of his newspaper, and he knew the man was right. So the young man had quickly sunk to his knees and kept his head down and mouth shut while his boyfriend ate his own breakfast and he consumed nothing (his stomach grumbling at the overwhelming scent of bacon and eggs and strawberry jam on toast). 


He was now starving and when Steve had offered to buy him lunch, he swallowed his pride and gently pointed to the veggie sandwich in the display case that had not only looked the best, but he knew was the freshest because he himself had made it only thirty or so minutes ago. Steve had smiled when Bucky accepted his offer of food and he ordered two of the vegetable sandwiches, as well as a lemon cake pop for his former best friend (knowing Bucky loved them, but would never ask for something he found so frivolous when he was already allowing Steve to buy him lunch). 


Sensing by the silence that the young man was feeling uncomfortable, Steve stammered to add onto his previous statement. “You don’t have to tell me about him, kid, but he doesn’t seem to make you very happy… You’ve lost some weight, pal, and well you always seem to be frowning. I’m just worried about you.” 


Bucky chewed so slowly he felt like his jaw was going to fall off. He knew taking a long time to speak wouldn’t delay the conversation for much longer than if he chewed normally, and he equally knew that there would be no conversation if he told Steve he didn’t feel comfortable talking about it (Steve was just that kind of a person. He would never push Bucky farther than he was feeling up for and would automatically back down if Bucky said even one, single word). But the thing was, he somewhat did want to talk about it with the man. He wanted his best friend back. Stevie used to protect him from his parents when he was smaller, so maybe he could protect Bucky from Alexander now. 


He frowned, playing with the smooth edges of the name tag pinned to his front and gnawing at his lip nervously. He felt guilty because it wasn’t even like Bucky needed to be protected, right? As his dominant, Alexander had every right to do whatever he wanted with and to Bucky. It was Bucky’s job to keep his head down and his voice quiet, to not complain, to be compliant and sweet and calm and everything Alexander wanted him to be. Bucky felt guilty even thinking badly of the man and on the surface of his conscience, he knew he was being ungrateful by thinking of him in any negative way. 


Pierce had done everything for Bucky, supported him and given him a home and helped him realize that college was bad for him and that he needed to leave and only spend time with the man (At first Bucky thought it was isolation, his newly made college friends trying to convince him to stay, but he now realized it really was for the best). Alexander helped him leave everything (and everyone…) in his old life and find a new, better one with only pleasing him to worry about. All he asked was Bucky get a job to help out (Bucky ignored when helping with bills turned into helping with beer) and always being ready to fuck and most importantly to always wear his collar (even outside of the house). 


When they had first started dating Bucky had only worn the collar at home, not wanting to involve other, non-consenting people in their kink and rather wanting to keep it a private part of their relationship, just for the two of them. But one day, about a month into their relationship, when Bucky had gone to take the collar off for work, just like he had done every other morning as part of his routine, Pierce had grabbed his wrist and stopped him. “Don’t you want to leave it on, James? You’re mine, aren’t you? Don’t you want people to know that, boy?” He had asked so calmly that it only made sense for him to leave the collar on his neck. (He told himself that it was just for a short amount of time, but after that day came the padlock. And with the collar literally locked in place, it was no longer a choice of when Bucky wanted to wear it, because Pierce had the only key and he flaunted that privilege often). 


Eventually Bucky swallowed his bite of sandwich, knowing that the time truly had come for him to speak up and say something. “I...uh… I don’t know Stevie,” he stammered, his face blushing when Steve smiled soft and sweet at the nickname that had nervously slipped out of his mouth like it was a second nature he was reverting back to. “I really do like him… I uh, I just feel like he doesn’t listen to me sometimes. It doesn’t really matter though, it’s not a huge deal or anything… I uh… I just… I hate when people don’t listen to me. It makes me feel so stupid or… or like people don’t care about me and, well… I don’t know, I guess it just makes me feel sad to think about.”


Steve cocked his head to the side, waiting for Bucky to continue his rambling sentiments and frowning when the man took another bite of the sandwich, chewing even more slowly than he had been previously and glaring down at his lap. A light blush colored his cheeks as he chewed slowly and fiddled with his nametag, before his hand reached up to mess with the collar on his neck. It felt like it was choking him, burning his skin and muting his voice all at once. Its presence gave Bucky anxiety and if he could have, he would have yanked it off and thrown it in the trash, or perhaps light it on fire in some sort of spectacular display of his freedom. But instead, he only fiddled with the leather strap and tried to hold back the feelings of being trapped that were threatening to consume his entire mind. 


Steve had already finished his sandwich and after carefully cleaning his hands, he started drumming the pads of his fingers in a steady beat against the sketchbook page. Every few seconds, he would trace a drawing of Bucky crying with his thumb, but he otherwise didn’t move much. It was clear that the man wanted to push him to continue talking, but Bucky was clearly done talking and Steve always made a point of respecting his boundaries.


Steve stopped drumming his fingers and when he looked up, his blue eyes were icy yet warm and soft and understanding all at the same time. “I’ll always listen to you if you need it.” Steve stressed the words in order to give Bucky the ability to read between the lines of his seemingly simple offer. 


And Bucky truly did read between the lines of the man’s softly stated words. He really did want to tell the man more about what was going on. He wanted desperately to explain that Alexander didn’t listen when he asked him to stop during sex when he was scared or just not feeling it. That the man never listened when Bucky begged him not to push him in a certain way or tried to make him understand that not all pain was good pain, that some pain would never allow him to reach an orgasm and really just hurt him. 


He wanted to tell Stevie all about how when he asked for something to eat while explaining that was so hungry his vision was blurry and he felt as if he might pass out, Alexander would laugh at him or simply refuse. In a desperate way, he even wanted to tell the man about his boyfriend treating him like a literal dog when he messed up; he wanted to tell the man about the leash and sleeping on the floor and about the feelings of being less than human that Alexander had instilled in him. 


But instead of saying anything or letting his emotions bubble to the surface and take hold of what he said, he just continued slowly eating the sandwich, savoring every bite of what would probably be his only real meal of the day. He couldn’t tell Steve. He could never let this man, who once protected and loved him, realize that he was as pathetic as the little boy who had once moved away from Brooklyn and left his best friend wondering if his family would be able to keep him alive. 


Steve sighed and rested his head in his hands, shaking it back and forth as if to clear his mind of the stress he no doubt was feeling in the situation. It was clear he was slightly disappointed that Bucky had not confided in him. But instead of pushing it, he went back to sketching Bucky and awkwardly sitting in the now less than comfortable silence that had settled over them. 


Nearly fifteen minutes later, when his lunch break was about to end, Bucky had finished his sandwich and stuffed the lemon cake pop into the pocket of his baggy sweatshirt for later (already fearing that he would not eat for the rest of the day and planning on where to hide it in order for his boyfriend not to find it and question where he had gotten it; or even worse, confiscate it and limit his food intake even more as a form of punishment). 


He wished he had more time to spend with Steve, because maybe he would eventually push himself to share more with the man; or open up like a faucet being turned on and his emotions flowing like water from the tap. But he had to get back to his job and his real stupid life and his real stupid boyfriend. And no matter how much he fucking wanted to, he couldn’t hide away from it any longer. 


He had to leave the man who made him feel like everything was going to be right for once in his life and go back to the crappy stuff and it just didn’t feel in the least bit fair to him. He wanted to deserve more, but he clearly didn’t deserve more and he had to deal with the fact that he must have done something really, really bad in life to never deserve to have happiness.


However, before Bucky could leave, Steve limply caught his wrist in his own hand, holding the man in place. “Maybe try talking to him about it tonight. He might surprise you and be understanding.” He sounded like he wasn’t quite convinced by his own words, but wanted it to be true regardless and Stevie was the type of person who always gave advice and tried to solve even the most helpless of situations. 


Bucky nodded his head once before nervously scampering back to hide behind the counter and get back to his job. He doubted Alexander would actually listen to him. But he wanted Steve to be happy with him and a small part of him hoped that Alexander might actually listen to him. It didn’t hurt to try, right?

“What did you just say to me, boy?” 


Bucky was splayed out on the bed, his ass pointed towards the ceiling and his face pressed deep into the mattress. Alexander had a knee propped between his legs, pushing and spreading him open and forcing his legs to stay so far apart his muscles ached as he ruthlessly thrust into the young man. 


“Answer me, boy,” the man yelled, pulling out (leaving him gaping and open and burning) and then slapping his bare ass so hard Bucky screamed into the mattress. Big, hot tears were wetting the bed sheets and blanket underneath him, but he still felt like he could not speak. He was terrified of admitting that he had dared ask Alexander to stop what he was doing because it was hurting him, that he had questioned his boyfriend and made even a small attempt to make his needs known in a situation he clearly had no control over. 


Another five slaps came raining down on his ass in quick succession. It burned like a red hot wire on his skin and caused Bucky to scream and writhe on the mattress like he was being electrocuted. Every time their skin touched it felt like a forest fire, spreading across his entire body and engulfing his entire being in the flames and destruction. (Sometimes when Bucky was feeling particularly naive, he would confuse the fire for sparks flying). 


“That’s what I thought, you whore. Don’t you ever dare ask me to stop again, James.” The loudest slap landed on his ass on Bucky felt like his entire backside was on fire. He screamed for the man to stop, which only caused him to do it once more. 


“I think we may need to bring the leash back. You’ve clearly been getting cocky, boy, and you need to remember your place, bitch. I do this because I love you and you clearly can’t get that through your thick head.” 


Hot, sticky cum stained his back as the man jerked off all over him. It was demeaning, almost inhumane, but Bucky knew he deserved it for asking Pierce to stop when he so clearly wanted nothing more than to have a good sub pleasuring him. 


(It was even more demeaning as Bucky was clipped to the bottom of the bed with his hands bound together behind his back with rope and Alexander’s semen drying all over his shaking body). 

When he saw Steve next, he could barely bring himself to make eye contact with the man as he placed his order at the counter (one lemon cake pop, a green tea and twenty dollars tucked into the tip jar- along with the lemon cake pop shoved back into his hands). He knew it was not the man’s fault that he couldn’t sit down because his ass burned at contact and little trails of blood ran down his thighs and stained his underwear a rusty brown color, but he couldn’t help but be just a little bit mad at him. 


He felt like Steve pressured him into confronting Alexander, even though the logical part of his brain knew that the man had no idea what the consequences of him saying no to his boyfriend would be. He knew Steve meant the best, so he shouldn't blame him for something he could not have possibly predicted or known the extent of. But it still made him angry to think about and his conscious couldn’t help but place a little bit of blame on this man. 


However, Bucky vehemently shook his head, as if trying to physically shake the negative thoughts away. Steve really wasn’t pushing him too far and it wasn’t his fault that Alexander didn’t listen- didn’t stop. 


Steve was clearly running somewhere today and was not able to sit and talk with him as he usually would insist upon. The man had a worn, brown leather satchel on his shoulder and more than one pencil tucked behind his ear, and he was wearing a soft white button down shirt with little bird designs on the fabric, with a light tan cardigan layered on top. He looked extremely put together and when glancing down at his own rumpled jeans and stained black t-shirt covered by an equally stained apron, Bucky felt a strange sense of jealousy form like a rock in the pit of his stomach. 


The morning had been rough, Alexander having forced him to relieve himself in the bathtub once again, as a punishment for his disobedience, and his body shook from lack of food. It wasn’t his fault that he looked like a hot mess, but he still felt embarrassed and ugly in front of a man he did nothing but admire; the man who he had looked up to since he was a child and who he really did want to impress.


“I’m running to an art installation downtown today, a bunch of hipster queer art folks so it should be fun.” He paused to really look at Bucky and a small frown crossed his delicate features. “But please text me and maybe you can come over later… You look like you need a shower and a good hug.” Steve’s voice was rushed and breathy as he collected his green tea and pushed the cake pop back into Bucky’s hands. 


“You have my number!” Steve yelled as he rushed out the door and onto the busy street, disappearing into the mass of people on the crowded sidewalk within a single second, in a way that was only able to happen in New York City. 


That night, after Bucky had all day to cool off and take a step back from the situation (and redirect his anger at Alexander rather than the man trying to help him), he truly contemplated texting Steve and seeing if he could go over to the man’s house and collect on the shower… and possibly the hug as well. 


He typed out the message on his phone nearly ten different ways (careful of how loudly his fingers tapped away- terrified that even in the silence of his apartment, the ghosts would rat him out to Alexander) and his thumb hovered over the send button for what felt like hours. 


But in the end he never did send it, because when Alexander got home from work he realized how foolish he was being for thinking he could just text Stevie and get out of his apartment (and his relationship for that matter and his entire stupid life). 

The next few days, after what Bucky was now referring to as ‘the incident’, were particularly rough. Alexander refused to allow the boy to talk once more and Bucky was actually quite torn between considering it to be the worst and best thing possible. 


On one hand, not being allowed to talk meant that he couldn’t dig his own grave by questioning his boyfriend further. He couldn’t accidentally upset Pierce by being his stupid, useless self or force the man to have to punish him even further. 


Being silent also meant that he no longer held accountability in whether or not he was punished. It meant that maybe for once he could take a deep breath and focus on anything but biting his tongue so hard it bled in order to keep himself from crying out or complaining or making an even bigger mess of an already messy situation.


But on the other hand, the silence was suffocating and it gave him even more time to think about how truly unfair his coerced silence truly was. It gave him time to panic and let his fears overtake him and his mind and thoughts run away with themselves. And now it was days after the shit had hit the fan and the young man was terrified of the sound of his own breath and the way his feet slid across the hardwood floor, producing a tiny scratching that sounded loud and clear- like a gunshot in the suffocating silence.


Bucky wrinkled his nose at the smell of beer that hung in the air like a thick cloud. It was a rare day that Bucky’s and Alexander’s days off did not coincide, his boyfriend always micromanaging every minute of the boy’s time (At first Bucky had found it romantic, but recently he had found fault in the fact that the only time he was allowed out of Pierce’s sight was when he was working to support the man’s bad drinking habits). 


Previously, if the young man could manage to snag an entire afternoon to himself, he would relax and count the fleeting hours of freedom like big, white clouds floating past in the sky. But today he couldn’t relax and he could only smell beer and the stench of fear in the air and he was fucking terrified if he made a sound that Alexander would pop up like weeds from the woodwork and hurt him.

He was on edge, sitting next to the table (he wouldn’t dare sit on furniture even when he was alone, head bowed and waiting for Alexander to come home and give him even a morsel of praise for not breaking the rules even in his absence). 


But then and without seemingly any warning, he felt like he was free falling through another galaxy and choking on his own spit and his entire body was crying out for comfort from a ghost of a man who had been there to provide the comfort he craved in years. 


The sweet phantom smell of green tea was even stronger than the stench of beer and he felt like he was spiraling out of control and his body was moving without his permission, dragging himself upward and for the first time in days he didn’t care whether or not he was making a sound. He only cared about Stevie. He needed his best friend and a hug. 


And fuck, for the first time he was realizing that maybe he shouldn’t be mad at Steve for reminding him that it was ok to make his needs known and take care of himself. Maybe he should be mad at Pierce for not listening to him and forcing him to do something he wasn’t comfortable doing. Maybe he should be mad at the man for hurting him, for treating him like he was less than the dirt on the bottom of his feet. 


Bucky shook his head, pinching the inside of his wrist until an angry red mark blossomed against the pale, white skin. The pain helped ground him enough to feel capable of grabbing his phone and reaching out in away that made his entire body shake, but a small smile still grace his dainty features. Maybe, just maybe this was a good thing and maybe Stevie could help him grow and heal and feel even a little bit better.

Steve’s apartment was everything that Bucky expected, yet still a new place to explore (and consequently a new place to feel uncomfortable and worry about his actions in). It was a cosy one bedroom apartment in a very hipster neighborhood in the outskirts of Brooklyn, where the rent was just a little bit cheaper than it was in Manhattan and the more central, richer parts of Brooklyn. 


He lived alone, thanks to his decent community art school teacher’s salary. Apparently teaching young people to draw was an important skill but still didn’t pay enough for him to afford an apartment in Manhattan, closer to the school (and the coffee shop and where Bucky himself lived with Alexander). 


He used to think he was lucky, being able to afford to live in Manhattan. But when he got slightly older and far less naive, he realized that he could only live in his apartment due to Alexander’s job and without the man he would be homeless (Bucky was just starting to realize that that may have been yet another way Alexander tried to keep him under his thumb and compliant). 


Everything in the apartment was clearly deeply personal to the man living there. Sketchbooks sat stacked on every shelf, table and counter in every corner of the living room and there was a fine layer of pencil shavings and eraser dust coating every surface, as well as some of the sketchbooks. The walls were a light brown, matching the brick on the exterior of the building, and he had a cute little fire escape that looked more like his own personal garden than an emergency exit. Flowers and vines curved around the metal, artistically mixing the natural and artificial elements. There was a yoga mat spread across the metal slats, a mug half full of cold green tea precariously perched near the edge and an old tin of cookies, that appeared to hold a large array of colored pencils, some in colors he swore he had never seen before but Stevie probably knew like the back of his hand. 


The cosy fire escape looked as if it was somewhere the man often sat, stretched out like a cat in the hazy sunlight, sketching and drinking his green tea. Bucky wanted nothing more than to join the man on those lazy days. Maybe he would curl himself into a ball, sitting right in Stevie’s lap while he read a book. Or maybe he would just sit there in the man’s lap, running his hands through Steve’s hair with his eyes closed- listening to his best friend’s heartbeat and focusing on the sunlight, warm and enjoyable on his skin. 


Bucky was currently kneeling on a small, warm rug in front of a well worn brown leather couch. His head was bowed and he was focusing intently on his breathing, taking deep breaths in every few seconds and holding the air in his lungs for at least ten seconds before exhaling. 


The man felt his face go hot as he imagined leaning up to plant a soft kiss on the side of Stevie’s head. And he felt it get even hotter when he imagined how small and protected he would feel in the man’s large arms as Steve pet his hair like a small animal and kissed him like he was his only connection to this world. 


He felt guilty for thinking of these things. For imagining what it would feel like to be kissed by Stevie and loved and sweetly dominated in the best way possible. He already felt beyond guilty for being here and taking the first, small step towards letting the man show any form of dominance in his life. 


It wasn’t sexual in the slightest, regardless of the implications of a sexual relationship between them there wasn’t enough trust to even begin to breach that topic. It was sweet and simple and clearly from a place of concern deeply rooted in their childhood friendship; Steve having freaked out when he had first seen Bucky looking so fragile and underfed that he could probably collapse at a gentle breeze. 


When Bucky had first come to the house, he had been anxious. Unsure if this was the right thing to do. His heart wanted nothing more than to take Steve up on his offer and try to relax and take a well needed break, but his mind knew there would be hell to pay when he returned home later and Alexander no doubt discovered that he had left the apartment (and worse, started talking again without permission). He would be late and with the current punishment happening at home, being late seemed like the worst possible idea ever in this situation. Alexander would probably leave his leash clipped to the bottom of the bed until he passed out from dehydration and malnutrition, and in the end probably died. 


But the moment Steve had opened his mouth and started doting over his weight and the way his hands shook and ribs rattled when he breathed, he had broken down. And Stevie had told him that he could help him  relax and eat all at the same time, and then he had started talking Bucky’s ear off about safe words and negotiations, even for a non sexual scene. And wow, Bucky’s mind had easily been made up. He needed this so deeply and Steve was going to help him achieve it and Steve had promised him that it was all going to be ok. There was nothing wrong with putting his happiness first, right?


Steve’s nimble artist fingers gently pried open Bucky’s mouth. His thumb was warm and heavy against Bucky’s jaw, pivoting his entire hand as he tried to ease the mouth open. The man ran the pad of his finger over Bucky’s tongue once before he delicately placed a chunk of peanut butter and strawberry jelly sandwich into his waiting mouth. 


“Chew,” he said softly, watching Bucky automatically begin chewing before he started to tear another chunk of sandwich, sitting in a napkin in his lap, away.


The peanut butter was thick and salty in his mouth, contrasted by the sweet taste and gooey texture of the strawberry jelly. It was the first thing he had eaten in what felt like forever and he savored every time he chewed like it was the last time he would ever eat (he ignored the fact that with his boyfriend’s agenda, it may truly be the last thing he ate in the coming days). When he was only focusing on the taste and weight and textures of the sandwich, it was easy to ignore the overwhelming sense of dread and fear that often felt like a noose around his neck, waiting to kill him. 


When the hand fed him another chunk of sandwich, on instinct Bucky sucked the fingers into his mouth. He licked and nipped at them with his teeth, careful not to actually bite and only to tease, focusing on the sharp intake of breath he heard Steve take and the quiver he could feel even within the man’s fingers.


“That’s a good boy.” Steve’s voice was sweet like honey and breathy, and Bucky fleetingly wondered if he was feeling as lost in his dominance as Bucky was with his submission. “But please let me feed you some more sandwich, doll. I don’t want you to be hungry, sweet thing.” 


He pulled his fingers from Bucky’s mouth with a wet little pop, quickly grabbing another chunk of sandwich and once again delicately placing it into his open mouth. 


Bucky felt like he was floating as he dutifully finished the sandwich one chunk at the time, only pausing to occasionally lick or suck at Stevie’s fingers. He ignored every negative or alarming thought that floated through his brain and he only listened to Steve’s voice softly telling him to chew, and the sticky peanut butter in his mouth and the sweet jelly, and every breath he took, and his stomach feeling full and no longer rumbling like a motorcycle in a rainstorm. 


He hadn’t felt this deeply submissive in the longest time and Bucky forgot how much he loved it. There seemed to be a misconception that you could only feel the thrill of dominance and submission in sexual situations, but being fed a sandwich while kneeling, having his hair pet and being called a good boy made him feel euphoric. It made him feel like he was floating and Bucky fleetingly wondered if this was the intoxicatingly good feeling he was missing in his exchanges with Alexander. 


After Bucky’s stomach was full of delicious sandwich, Steve helped him stand up. The man pressed a kiss to each one of his knees, kneading the skin with his own fingers and making sure Bucky wasn’t sore or uncomfortable.

“It’s time to come back to me now.” Steve’s voice was sweet and soft. It pulled at the edge of Bucky’s submissive headspace, beckoning him to feel less like a pile of mush and more like a young man who was standing on the precipice of disaster and only being saved by Stevie himself. 


“Can you follow one more order for me and come out of that pretty little head of yours, doll?” Bucky still felt like he was floating, but he shook his head a few times, trying to physically shake away his submission. He desperately wanted to stay wrapped up in the warmth of his headspace, of being hand fed a sandwich and having his head pet and being told that he was a good boy (and not a failure or a whore or disgusting- like Alexander always called him). But he knew it was time to go and he couldn’t help but obey Steve, no matter how sucky the command was and how much he wanted to do nothing more than to stay warm and happy. 


So he found himself coming back to his own body and consciousness, awkwardly shuffling on his feet in the doorway to the apartment (which he had fled to when he realized what he had truly done and how he wanted to escape from his embarrassment and fear and vulnerability as quickly as humanly possible).


“Now, none of that doll,” Steve chastised, tapping Bucky’s chin with an outstretched finger. It smelled like pencil shavings and tea and Bucky wanted to jump into his arms and never leave the man or his apartment ever again.


“There is nothing wrong or embarrassing about showing someone the beauty of your submission.” The man smiled, showing off his perfect teeth. “I am honored you shared something so personal with me and I hope you feel so compelled to show it to me again sometime soon.” 


As if sensing that Bucky was still uncomfortable, Steve sighed. He quickly wrapped Bucky’s smaller frame into his arms and squeezed once. “I really am proud of you, sweetheart. I can tell that something is wrong, we’ve been friends for too long for me not to notice, and I need you to know that I am always here to listen and help you no matter what.”


Bucky tensed in the man’s arms, truly wanting to confide in the man but not feeling like he was able to in this moment. He didn’t want to put his own emotional crap onto someone as amazing as Steve and he wasn’t even sure he deserved comfort or love or compassion from other people. He wouldn’t push. He would keep his head down and his mouth closed. 


Steve sighed, clearly understanding that he wasn’t going to get anything out of Bucky. “Now then, do you need a ride home?”


Bucky almost automatically said yes, wanting to spend as much time with Steve as possible, but he quickly cut himself off. He couldn’t get a ride home, that would only make Alexander’s punishment so much worse. So he politely declined, still shuffling back and forth on his feet and ducking out the door as soon as humanly possible. He loved what he did with Steve more than anything else, it made him feel complete and happy and excited and just a little bit less broken. But it was time to return to his apartment, to Alexander and (unfortunately) to the real world. 

When Bucky returned to his apartment, he felt like he was glowing. He felt a warmth pooling in the bottom of his stomach. The feeling curled down his legs and into his toes and through his arms and shoulders and onto his face in the form of a smile. He was nervous to see Alexander, but he couldn’t help feeling happy at the events which had taken place between Stevie and him. 


In fact, he felt like he was floating, until the smell of green tea and pencil shavings was quickly replaced by the stench of cheap beer. And then the sound of a TV was being switched off and there was a hand so tight in his hair, he felt the strands being yanked out of place. 


“What’s got you looking so smiley, boy?” The hand in his hair tightened, forcing Bucky to look deep into Alexander's steely eyes. 


Bucky felt beyond out of place as the man continued talking. The warm feeling in his body had turned to ice in his veins and he wanted to run as far away as humanly possible. “You better not be doing anything I disapprove of, James. Seeing anyone I wouldn’t approve of or going places only bad boys go.”


Pierce’s eyes looked like he already knew what was going on, but Bucky refused to let him know that he was doing something he knew he shouldn’t be doing. He couldn’t let Alexander know about Stevie, because if he knew he wouldn’t be allowed to see him again. And he desperately needed to see Steve, because he was the only thing that made him feel good right now. 


“Of course not,” Bucky mumbled, fiddling with the hem of his shirt and running his tongue over the roof of his mouth to taste the salty residue of the peanut butter. 


Alexander’s fist came barreling towards his face before he could blink and pain blossomed in his lower eye and cheek like a firework. But he couldn’t even focus on it and rather could only focus on the way Alexander’s next words hurt more than the punch. 


“Do you really think you get to speak to me, boy? After everything you’ve done to me, you should quit while you’re ahead, before you dig yourself into an even bigger grave. I’m going to punish you tonight for being late and what I suspect is a streak of insubordination a mile long, but if I ever find out you are defying me and spending time with another person- there will be hell to pay. You hear me, boy? Hell to pay. ” 


Alexander was now dragging him towards the bedroom and Bucky let himself be pulled like he was a ragdoll. He hated it, but he knew deep in his bones that he really did deserve it for speaking out of turn and being late and finding happiness in Stevie and thinking about how much better his life would be without Alexander. And wow that last thought was new, but now that he first thought it, he couldn’t help but fixate on the truth within that statement. 


His life would be infinitely better without Alexander (and with Stevie, he thought). Maybe he could go back to school, get a degree and a better job that paid enough for him to get his own place and pay for groceries whenever he was hungry and not feel so trapped by his partner (and the rules that seemed to be killing him). Maybe he could have friend’s again. He missed his college roommate, an annoying yet sweet young man named Sam, more than words could explain. And maybe, just maybe he could finally find happiness. 


The metal click of the leash being clipped to his collar made his entire body shiver. He felt trapped and all he wanted was Steve and a hug and a warm bath and freedom. But he wasn’t going to get freedom, so he rested his head on his hands- trying to get as comfortable as possible on the cold hardwood floor. He was going to be alright, he promised himself, he had to be alright.


Alexander leaned over him, sneering, and Bucky recoiled back at the sight of metal glinting in the dim light of the room. “In case you get any cute ideas, James,” the man snarled, digging the knife into his face.


Bucky cried out in pain, blood dripping down his pale skin and onto the hardwood floor. But he quickly swallowed the noise, terrified of the further punishment of complaining. Everything didn’t feel alright in this moment and he was more scared than he had ever been before. He wanted Steve to come save him. He needed Steve. 

“Can I tell you something?” Bucky nervously asked the man sitting on the park bench next to him. 


Previously, Steve had always been the first to start the conversation, gently probing or asking questions for Bucky to nervously answer. But today, Bucky had a mission and a clear cut goal. He wanted to confide in Steve, he had spent all night tossing and turning on the floor only to decide that his only option was to tell the man that something was truly very, very wrong. 


It had filled him with apprehension and fear that morning when he had first texted Steve to see if he was free to meet him somewhere. He had finalized the decision he had been contemplating all night on a whim, when he had woken up to the large cut under his eye barely scabbed over, oozing blood and dripping onto the hardwood floor where his aching head had rested. 


Alexander was gone when he had woken up. He was unclipped from the bottom of the bed, but for the first several minutes he had continued to stay still. He was terrified of Alexander busting in and discovering that he had moved or done anything wrong. (His fear of being punished was the same reason why he relieved himself in the bathtub that morning, knowing that he wasn’t truly human and not wanting to be bad.) 


The smell of coffee was strong in the air, but when he had gone to get a cup there was a post-it note telling him not to bother drinking any, because Alexander would know if he did and his punishment would be tenfold what he was currently experiencing. Bucky wanted to throw both middle fingers in the air and drink the coffee straight from the pot, burning and blistering his throat and then smashing the glass angrily against the floor and running away to  find Stevie and never look back at the remmants of his stupid, shitty life. But he refused to disobey and even if he wanted to, his body physically wouldn’t let him. He was scared and emotionally drained and feeling exhausted by life and he just needed a friend. 


“Of course kid, you can tell me anything,” Steve quickly responded, clearly terrified that if he waited too long Bucky will lose interest or work himself up into an anxious fit and not share with him. 


Bucky knew that it was his turn to speak, but the words felt lost in his throat and he was terrified to say anything at all. He ground his boots into the dirt under the bench and scrunched his nose up in discomfort. 


As if sensing the man’s apprehension, Steve leaned forward. A large warm hand ran against Bucky’s check, prodding lightly at the deep, infected looking cut. “Did he do this to you?” His voice was sweet, but the question was so serious and to-the-point that it scared him. He didn’t want to betray his boyfriend, both out of fear and moral objection (and a small part of his brain which was still trying to convince himself that he deserved everything happening to him), but he also didn’t want to lie to this man who had once been his very best friend. 


When Alexander had attacked him with that knife last night, Bucky had been terrified that the man was going for his throat and not his cheek. And as much as he knew he deserved it for letting Steve comfort him and feed him (and love him), Bucky wasn’t ready to die in that moment. He refused to let the last thing he saw be Alexander Pierce’s twisted, smirking, wrinkly face sneering face as he calmly and rationally explained to him why he deserved to be attacked and threatened him even further. 


Taking the silence as a confirmation of the statement, Steve took in a long, shuddering breath. His entire large body shook and he seemed like he wanted to punch someone. It scared Bucky to see, but he kept on reminding himself of his childhood best friend. Stevie would never hurt him. Stevie would never hurt him. Stevie would never hurt him. He reminded himself over and over again. 


“Remember when we were kids?” Steve’s hand was still on his cheek, but no longer tracing the cut and instead just resting there as a warm heavy presence  on his skin . “You were such a cute kid, Bucky, all goofy smiles and untied shoelaces and sidewalk chalk smudged all over your cheeks. But I was older than you by enough that I could see past your goofy exterior. And I could also see the hand shaped bruises on your arms and belt marks on your back and the way you always had dried tears on your adorable, little cheeks.”


The man looked dreamy as he remembered what his friend was like when they were younger. “I was too young to protect you then in any real way. I remember trying to get you out of their as much as possible, take you to the diner or the park or just spend time together. I felt helpless because I was unable to do anything real, though. I was too young then, but I’m almost thirty now, pal. I am an adult with my own life and money, and I can protect you now. No one deserves to get hurt, kid. Not even you.” He added the last part before Bucky could protest and try to convince him that he truly did deserve it for being so undeniably bad. 


Steve sighed, letting his hand drop from Bucky’s cheek. “Things are obviously not ok, Bucky, and I can’t stand watching you put yourself in danger.”


“I’m not actually in danger,” Bucky pleaded with the man, trying to yank the padlocked collar off his neck to no avail, because despite his  words he still felt like he was suffocating. “He was just upset with me… I was bad, Stevie. You have to understand that I was being a really, really bad submissive and a bad boyfriend.”


He needed the man to understand that he deserved this for being bad. He wasn’t some dumb helpless kid anymore being abused by his parents and being too weak to do anythign about it. He was an adult who was in a relationship he could leave anytime he wanted to. (Bucky ignored the little voice in the back of his mind yelling at him that it was, in fact, too late to leave safely, reminding him that he was truly stuck in this relationship).


Steve shook his head adamantly. “Don’t even start that with me, kid. This is abuse. Hurting your partner without consent is abuse and I don’t care how brainwashed he has you. I need you to understand that despicable man is abusing you, Bucky. You don’t deserve this even if he tries to convince you that you do.”


Bucky shook his head, letting the tears that had welled up in the corner of his eyes splash down his injured face. He winced as the salt water landed in the cut, but in a strange way loved the way the pain made him feel. He felt like he was spinning out of control, but this little bit of self induced pain made him feel even the slightest bit more grounded in this moment. 


Hearing these words so factually laid out terrified Bucky. He knew that maybe something might be wrong, but abuse? How could this be abuse? Alexander was his dominant and he had every right to hurt Bucky in anyway he pleased. 


As if Steve could read his mind the man supplied an answer. “Even though he is your dominant, he can still abuse you. He doesn’t have a right to do anything you don’t want and if he cared about you, he would listen and not push you past your limits or senselessly hurt or abuse you for the sake of causing you pain.”


Steve paused before continuing, clearly gauging whether or not Bucky would freak out or not. “Can I ask you kid, has there ever been a moment where the pain didn’t feel good? Where you said you didn’t want something or asked him to stop? Have you ever felt taken advantage of in a way you didn’t like? Has Alexander ever forced you to have sex with him or do anything you didn’t explicitly say you wanted to do?”


Bucky glanced down at the dirt. To be quite honest, every exchange he had with Alexander sounded like things Steve was asking him about. Pierce never asked if Bucky was in the mood or comprised if the man said he wasn’t. He only cared about himself. If he wanted sex, he was getting it. If the man wanted to hurt someone, then Bucky was hurt. If the man wanted money for beer, Bucky would earn it. It was as simple as that. Bucky gave every part of his body and mind and spirit and financial earnings to Alexander, and the man ruthlessly took it without thought. It wasn’t rocket science, that was just how it was. 


He felt like a scared animal trapped in a corner as he stared down at the ground. He wanted Stevie’s help desperately, because the more the man pointed out, the more he realized Alexander truly was doing something wrong. But he also didn’t want to throw the man under the bus and he wanted to hold onto the small hope that maybe it wasn’t as bad as Steve was making it out to be. 


No matter what Steve said to him, part of him knew that he would never stop blaming himself even if he eventually recognized what Alexander was doing as a form of abuse. Being a two-time victim of abuse meant there must have been something wrong with him, some reason everyone who was supposed to love him hurt him. His parents had to have hated him for a reason and it must have been the same reason Alexander seemed to hate him, too. 

“I’m scared,” Bucky whispered so quietly Steve almost missed the words the young man was confiding in him. “I don’t want to be dramatic and I really wouldn’t call this abuse, Stevie. I just… Sometimes he hurts me, alright? It’s not a big deal or anything. He needs to punish me when I’ve been bad and I tend to be bad a lot. It’s nothing huge or anything, maybe he won’t prep me or I get spanked or I won’t get to sleep in the bed. I mean, well… he always makes me sleep on the floor, but when I’m being punished he uses the leash to keep me there and I hate that leash because it  makes me feel trapped. So it really does feel like a punishment, because I’m not supposed to like being punished. Oh and sometimes, well most of the time, I’m not allowed to eat, but it’s not a big deal because I eat at work and you always take care of me real good. Honest Stevie, but anyways just ya… I um, I just hate when he doesn't listen to me when he says stop. Is it bad if I don’t wanna have sex all the time? Because when I don't wanna, we still do it and it makes me sad, ok? Really sad. Like cry all day and cut off my long pretty hair sad… I really miss me long hair, it made me feel beautiful. He almost treats me like I’m fucking property, instead of a person… and definitely instead of his boyfriend, who he is supposded to love. And I hate it because I want to be a person, not some stupid dog that he hates and is mean to… I just hate it, ok?”


By the end of Bucky’s rant he was almost yelling. He felt so upset and drained and stupid and sad and like everything in this entire world was imploding and failing and spiraling out of control and he was crash landing like a burning plane crashing out of orbit from another galaxy. 


He hadn’t meant to say this much, but the more he shared, the easier it became to do so. It felt like a dam breaking and everything was escaping quicker than he could fix the barrier between his mouth and his mind; and Stevie looked so kind and he was craving help and affection and really just a good hug. And the man in front of him, the amazing, caring, sweet man was offering help and maybe, Bucky realized, he really did need the help. 


But now, all he wanted to do was run as far away as humanly possible. He wanted to scream and cry and never face this amazing man again.


He felt like he screwed up big time. Stevie, perfect fucking Stevie, did not need to know about why his boyfriend needed to punish him for being bad. He didn’t need to know that Bucky was disgusting and helpless and completely worthless. Stevie didn’t realize that Bucky was almost not worth speaking to, he was that gross and repulsive and almost not human in the way he should be treated. 


But there they were and Stevie was staring at him with those big, earnest eyes and moving to hug him and it was all too much for him. He just wanted to be happy again. And Pierce didn’t make him fucking happy. Alexander made him want to scream and cry and run until his feet were bloody and worn and blistered, until he was unable to run anymore. 


Steve’s large hand was warm on the back of Bucky’s neck and the man gently guided Bucky’s forehead to rest against his own. 


“Hey, kid.” He was so close to the man he could feel Stevie’s breath on his lips, cool and hot and comforting all at the same time. “I need you to understand that you don’t deserve this.” The hand on the back of his neck ran over his skin in soothing patterns, and Bucky leaned into the touch. “This is abuse and I promise I’m going to get you out of there…” Steve paused, staring straight into Bucky’s eyes. “You’re going to be safe if it’s the last thing I do.”


After their conversation on the park bench, Stevie had insisted that Bucky come stay with him until he could get his life back to a better place. At first he had freaked out, almost getting up and physically running away from the situation. It was one thing to confide in the man, but an entirely other thing to stay with him. It made him feel like some sort of dumb coward, rather than someone protecting himself from an abusive partner, because he was still having a hard time coming to terms with the fact that what Alexander was doing was considered abuseand was really, really bad.


Bucky hated the thought of being melodramatic or overreacting, so it was easier for him to ignore the signs. He wanted to keep his head down and his mouth shut and just live, but now he had spilled to Stevie and they were only a few minutes away from Bucky’s apartment to pick up clothes and essentials before they went to Steve’s place for the night (and frankly the entire foreseeable future). 


Steve had been hesitant to return to Bucky’s apartment at first, terrified that it would aggravate the situation, but Bucky had assured him that Alexander would still be at work and wouldn’t be home for an hour. And god, on any other day that would’ve been true, but of course today had to fuck him over even more. 


When Bucky pushed open the door of the apartment, he hadn’t expected to hear the TV on or smell the stench of beer in the air. But when he did he quickly shoved Steve, who had been trailing behind him, into the hall closet and put his finger to his mouth (hoping that the man understood the frantic gesture). 


They were really screwed, he thought to himself as he prayed that Steve would stay quiet and hidden away in the darkness of the closet. But something told him that he wouldn’t stay put, the Stevie of his childhood never did, and he felt like he was trying to win an uphill battle. And then it got even worse when the TV shut off and the smell of beer was even closer now and Bucky felt like he was going to collapse. 


Alexander was clearly drunk, holding a bottle of beer in one hand and swinging the same knife from the previous night in his other. It glinted every few seconds and his eyes looked dangerous. 


The man leaned forward, getting right up into Bucky’s face. “I know you texted someone this morning, James.”


Spit flew onto his face and with a loud clang the man threw the beer bottle onto the ground. Glass and alcohol flew everywhere and what must’ve been a half a dozen shards embedded themselves into the back of Bucky’s thighs and his lower back. 


“I know you’re seeing someone you little whore, and if I can’t have you, no one can.” 


The pain in his stomach felt almost as terrifying as the blood curdling scream that shattered the quiet air as the knife sank into his skin. He felt his knees buckle and when he looked down all he could see was red everywhere. Pouring out of him and onto the floor and all over his hands. His vision started to go blurry and the blood seemed to multiply every time he blinked, until he felt like he was swimming in it. 


He heard multiple doors slamming and the sound of footsteps echoed and reverberated in his head. It was getting harder to concentrate and harder to keep his eyes open as more and more blood escaped his body like waves during high tide. 


The last thing Bucky remembered was the feeling of Stevie holding him close as his eyes drifted shut. The man’s skin was soft against his and he tried to feel closer to the man.

All he could hear through the chaos was the sound of Steve’s voice, soft and sweet and concerned in his ear. “Stay with me, kid. You have to stay with me…” The feeling of Steve’s hands on his torso was the only thing he had left and he desperately tried to hold onto the feeling. “I can’t lose you sweetheart, not again.  I can’t lose you, Bucky. I love you too much sweetheart.” 


Bucky was trying to cling to the words like he was trying to cling to his consciousness. But he was slipping away and he was terrified that this was the end. This was the moment that he died and passed onto the other life far too soon.  


The blood felt foreign on his skin and when Bucky closed his eyes the next time, he refused to open them again. This was the end, he thought, this must be the end. 


He felt Stevie’s hand in his hair. And he smelled green tea. And he felt warm and safe, despite the blood flowing out of him in an alarmingly fast rate, because Steve was there and he was going to protect him. 


Bucky shifted, trying to get closer to the man and the source of comfort. But when he moved his stomach felt like it was on fire and his eyes watered. He felt dizzy, as if he was skydiving, running a mile and diving from a cliff all at the same time. 


A loud moan entered the air, jagged and caught in his throat. He whined, trying to nestle further into Steve’s side. But his body was done with him and screaming at him to stop moving and aggravating the injury. 


And then, there was only darkness. 

Chapter Text

Bucky shot up from the bed like he was being electrocuted by lightning during a warm, spring rain shower. His body twisted, muscles rippling as soft yellow sheets cascaded from his pale, scarred skin. 


“Hey, doll.” A warm hand wrapped around the naked skin of his upper arm. The contact of the man’s fingers on his skin felt hypersensitive, like he was the live end of a wire, and he let himself melt into the touch. Snuggling against Stevie’s bare chest, he focused on counting every breath the older man took. “Are you ok, love? Do you want to talk about it or just go back to sleep?”


Steve was talking to him like he was made of glass, like one misstep would cause him to crack and crumble and break into a million tiny pieces; and to be quite honest, Bucky couldn’t blame him. Every muscle in his body was screaming at him to escape the man’s gentle hold and fling himself onto the floor. Every instinct in his mind was trying to convince himself that he did not deserve to be in the bed, surrounded by the softest yellow sheets and curled up to the chest of a tentative lover. 


Every ounce of training from Alexander was trying to worm itself into his actions and convince him to run far, far away and reject the affection and tender sweet kindness that Stevie was offering to him like a gift from the gods. 


Behind him Steve moved and Bucky could feel the man’s heartbeat quicken. Warm breath ghosted the back of his neck and Bucky focused only on the sensation of being next to this man who swore he loved him and wanted to protect him against all costs. 


Steve ran the pads of his fingers over Bucky’s skin in soothing circles before he started speaking once again. “Do you want me to try to bring you down into your subspace?” 


The tentative way the man asked was matched by Bucky’s soft nod. He wasn’t particularly good at making his needs known (another side effect of his relationship with Alexander was often feeling guilty for asking in the first place), but when Stevie asked him it was hard for him to deny that every part of his body was screaming out for him to let go and let Steve take control. 


The man helped Bucky lie flat on his back. He sat criss cross on the bed, tilted down and staring Bucky straight in the eye before his eyes fluttered closed soon after. It wasn’t that he was uncomfortable looking at Steve or anything, but he always found it easier to fall into his submissive headspace when all he had to focus on was his breathing and the calming darkness on the inside of his eyelids. 


Steve’s hands started playing with his hair. He twisted and ruffled the strands, tugging every so often and making Bucky feel like he was falling even faster and harder into submission. In a strange sense, the little tugging sensation and bouts of pain made him feel relieved. It didn’t hurt that much, rather it was a small dull thudding, and it made him feel a small sense of contentment that somebody he trusted was administering the pain (He felt glad that it wasn’t the type of terrifying pain Alexander loved so dearly. The type of pain that made him scream and cry until his eyes were red rimmed and his throat sore).


Bucky shifted on the sheets, loving the sensation of the soft fabric hugging his bare skin. ‘This was the life’ he thought, while slowly drifting to sleep. Only focusing on the feeling of the fabric and the hands in his hair and the sounds of Stevie’s breathing. 

By 7:38 the next morning, it was clear that the day was what Stevie had dubbed a few weeks back ‘A Bad Bucky Recovery Day’. 


He had started to notice this the moment he woke up and the skin on his stomach had been burning like someone had hit him with a hot metal rod. He had found out quickly after he had been released from the hospital that healing took time and some days were going to be worse than others in terms of the pain. It had been nearly a week and a half since the pain felt as bad as it did on this particular morning and it had automatically triggered his mood to feel like it was jumping off a cliff. 


But he had ignored the pain for the time being, trying to keep his emotions in check until it had all blown right back up in his face when Stevie had walked into the bathroom to brush his teeth. And well, it turns out that peeing in somebody's bathtub because you’re terrified that you’re not allowed to use somebody's toilet is not a great way to be a house guest. And then, Stevie was crying and trying to help him but it had triggered Bucky even more, because he had been naked and he was terrified that Steve was going to take advantage of him, regardless of the fact that he logically knew that if they ever chose to get intimate it would never be under coerced or non consensual conditions. Stevie loved him and treated him with respect and he would never, ever abuse or hurt Bucky. 


By 8:25 Steve had called out of work (Bucky hadn’t been to work since the stabbing, but Steve still went in as much as possible in order to afford their rent) and the large blond man was trying to coax a terrified Bucky out from beneath the dining room table. The younger man was sitting curled in a ball beneath the table, because he felt like a bad boy and bad boys weren’t allowed to sit at the table and he was terrified that Steve would yell at him or hurt him if he even tried (regardless of Steve having spent weeks trying to convince Bucky that he was always allowed to sit at the table). 


“Some days are going to be harder than others, but I promise things are going to all be ok one day. You just have to trust me, doll.” Steve promised him, as he continued to try and get Bucky out from under the table. 


But the young man was dead set on staying firmly planted under the creaking wooden table. He kept his head ducked and he curled his body into as tight a ball as he could physically manage. He took the smallest breaths possible, hoping that lesser breathing would somehow make him disappear (regardless of the fact that he was so clearly there, his mind still tried to convince him that he could become invisible if he tried hard enough). 


He knew Steve was only trying to help him. He knew that the man loved him and if Bucky was in any other world, a world where he hadn’t been violated to the point where even the thought of intimacy terrified him, that the two men would be boyfriends by this point in time. 


But in this world, the word ‘boyfriend’ scared him and for the most part any sort of intimate touch made his entire body feel like it was on fire. It made him think about Alexander and being hurt and pushed and forced to do things until he broke into a million pieces. So in this world, Stevie and him were soulmates who were every part boyfriends except for in the sense of the literal word. 


“At least let me get you some food, sweetheart.” Stevie quietly insisted before scraping back his chair to run off towards the kitchen and get Bucky something to eat. 


By the time he returned, Bucky had convinced himself that it was ok to not hide but he was still unable to take a seat at the table. His body wouldn’t let him slide into the cool wooden chairs and he instead settled himself onto the floor next to Steve’s own chair. 


The man smiled sweetly at him when he returned, a look of confusion clear in his eyes. He was holding a clementine in one hand and a piece of toast in the other and he quickly made to pass them to Bucky. But Bucky quickly shook his head, clearing his throat before talking. “Can you feed me?”


The request was simple, but Bucky’s voice cracked. He felt vulnerable asking, but he was working hard on letting Steve into his mind and letting the man help.


Steve grinned, teeth glittering and dimples so large they looked like moon craters. Toast crackled as he broke it into bite sized chunks quickly, the smell of citrus permeating the air as he peeled the clementine soon after. 


Bucky let his tongue linger on Steve’s skin as the man placed a chunk of the buttery whole wheat toast into his mouth. It brought him back to the feeling of Stevie hand feeding him a peanut butter and jelly sandwich all those months ago and when the citrusy sweetness of clementine spread across his tongue he was filled with and overwhelming feeling of the difference between those two moments. It was surreal to think about how far he had come from sneaking away from Pierce when he felt hurt and scared, to living in this very same apartment just a short amount of time later. 


He had however certainly sacrificed a lot to be here today. Every time he showered or looked in the mirror or even wanted to enjoy the benefits of skin to skin contact with Steve, he had to look at the scars on his stomach. The knife wounds sat like jagged mountains on his skin. They were reminders that he had been on the brink of death, almost murdered by someone who was supposed to love and protect him. 


Bucky was starting to understand that Alexander Pierce truly never did care about him. He cared about his own self gain and twisting and manipulating and hurting Bucky, mangling the man until he could no longer recognize himself. Even now, he was mind was still obsessed with not breaking any of his ex-boyfriend’s rules. It felt as confining as the collar he had been forced to wear on his neck for so long.


Alexander had stolen his innocence and livelihood from him and now he felt broken. But he wasn’t really broken, he couldn’t be broken. He refused to be broken. He had Steve now and a growing self worth and confidence and he was even thinking about returning to school next semester in order to give himself another shot at a career. 


When Bucky had finished chewing the last chunk of toast, Steve pulled his chair away from the table. The floor creaked as the large man sat in front of him, taking one of Bucky’s hands in his and using the other to wipe at a tear he had no idea was falling down his face. “I know you’re scared, sweetheart. But I promise you that everything is going to be ok. It’s not going to all get better at once, but we’re going to get there someday.”


Bucky scrunched his nose up with apprehension at the promise  from the man. How could Steve promise it was going to all be ok when he was terrified of peeing and eating and speaking and simply existing like a normal person? How could he promise it was ok when he was going to have to testfy at his ex-boyfriend’s trial for attempted murder and domestic violence? How could he claim it was ok when he wanted nothing more than to curl up into a ball and hide, but was instead inspected to publicly speak out against his abuser?


“I’m scared that I’m too broken to fix…” Bucky was full on crying now and he could feel the tears on his face like they were a waterfall. “That you’re going to wake up one day and realize how pathetic I am and leave me all alone because I’m not worth the effort of trying to fix anymore.” 


Steve ran his fingers over the skin of Bucky’s face in soothing patterns. It felt warm and Bucky found himself melting into the touch, like it was his only connection with this entire world. “You are worth it kid and I love so much and I promise you that I’m not leaving just because it feels a little hard right now. I’m here till the end of the line pal. I promise I am going nowhere even if it feels a little bit difficult or even impossible right now.” 


The man leaned in, trying to maneuver under the low support beams under the table and tilting his head until he was only an inch away from Bucky’s face. The man smiled at him tentatively before asking in a quiet voice, “Do I have permission to kiss you, doll?” 


Bucky flushed at being asked instead of forced and he softly nodded his head once, giving consent for the man to lean in and connect their lips. When they touched Bucky felt like he was an ice cube melting into Stevie’s embrace. He felt calm and serene and for the first time in a long time, he felt like everything was going to be ok and work out fine. He had Steve and that was all he needed. 

“What type of ice cream do you want?” 


Bucky’s head snapped up from staring at the dirty floor of the 24 hour corner store at the question. When Steve had suggested they go pick up some ice cream after Bucky had woken up from a nightmare, he hadn’t expected the man to ask for his preferences and truly care about what he wanted. He wasn’t ready to tell someone what he wanted. He couldn’t tell someone he had a preference. He couldn’t be a bad boy. Having an opinion was bad. He was bad. Bad. Bad.


A warm hand landed on Bucky’s upper shoulder and he lifted his eyes to stare into Steve’s soft gaze. “You alright, doll? I’m not trying to overwhelm you or anything, I just want to get your favorite. Ice cream after nightmares is always a good idea, but it is considerably less enjoyable if I get a flavor you think is gross or even worse, that you’re allergic to.” 


Bucky took a deep breath, smoothing his shaking hands over the fabric of his dark purple sweatpants and adjusting his shirt to lay more flat over the wound on his stomach (he hated the way fabric would stretch over the scar, perpetually reminding  him that he had been stabbed by his ex boyfriend).


He was currently wearing one of Steve’s shirts and the too large fabric reached down to his lower thighs, making him feel small and protected. It smelled like the man and helped him feel grounded and like he was able to answer such a simple question like what type of ice cream he wanted. 


Bucky tilted his head to the side, scanning the array of ice cream flavors and gnawing at his lip. “I guess I’ll go with whatever the cheapest mint one is…I’m not really worth it… but mint is my favorite if you actually care”


Steve stared at him like he had two heads, his eyebrows were wrinkled and his eyes looked dark  and stormy. Bucky tilted his head down, terrified that the man was mad at him. He knew that it was a bad idea to share his opinion and he had done it regardless. It just went to show that he shouldn’t share. Sharing made him a bad boy. 


Ice cold air blasted Bucky’s face and his head snapped up in surprise. He didn’t even have time to blearily process before five or so tubs of various mint ice cream was being shoved  haphazardly into his arms. 


“Don’t ever let me hear you say you’re not worth it again.” Steve dragged Bucky over to another section, shoving whipped cream, hot fudge, a jar of bright red maraschino cherries and a pack of plastic spoons into his already full arms, before continuing to speak. “You are worth a million containers of mint chocolate chip ice cream and lots of love and cuddles and hot fudge and hugs and whipped cream and affection and all the good vibes in the entire world. Now bring those over to the counter, while I grab the rest of the snacks. We’re not gonna go back to sleep tonight, so we might as well have a junk food and movie marathon party.”

The words were said with a hint of dominance and Bucky scurried off the second they were said. After their ice cream and snacks were bagged and paid for, Steve ruffled Bucky’s hair softly before grabbing his hand and leading him outside of the corner store.


“I’m proud of you for telling me what you wanted,” Steve complimented him when they stopped at a crosswalk. The red light illuminated off of Steve’s dilated pupils and the plastic bag with their ice cream slowly melting inside. “You’re such a good boy, Bucky.” Steve squeezed his hand tightly. “My good boy.” 

Later that week, after Steve apologized profusely for having to return to work for a few hours in order to install an art exhibit, Bucky was left feeling unsure of what to do alone in Steve’s apartment. 


At this point he had been staying there for weeks, but the minute he was left alone he felt himself reverting back to traits and actions that hadn’t come to the surface since Steve had first insisted he could treat his apartment like a second home. 


He had started the afternoon curled up on the couch under a mound of fuzzy blankets, watching some animated movie about talking animals (at this point in his life he felt too sensitive to watch anything but children’s movies and even then, some of them were too scary or triggering for him) and eating mint chocolate chip ice cream straight from the carton. It was soft and warm and he felt himself relax for the first time in a long time.


But as time went on he became more tired and his body felt like lead until his hand drooped and the carton of ice cream fell to the floor with a large plop. The metal spoon clattered across the floor with a loud, metallic sound and it startled Bucky to the point where he tumbled off of the couch- landing in a heap of limbs and blankets and half melted ice cream on the hard floor. 


He curled himself into the fetal position, rocking back and forth and slamming the flat part of his hand onto his forehead over and over again. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. He was so fucking stupid for thinking he was allowed to be on the couch and then making a mess all over the floor. 


When Steve returned to his apartment nearly two hours later, when the TV had long since stopped playing the movie, he had knelt down on the floor next to the crying, shaking young man- clearly concerned beyond belief and wanting to do anything to make it better.  


“It’s ok, I promise you’re ok, kid,” he had soothed over and over again, until Bucky finally stopped shaking and let the man help him stand on shaky legs and hobble over to the bathroom. 


Steve had placed a gentle kiss to his forehead as he helped the younger man clean the melted ice cream from his skin with a damp washcloth. He had then helped Bucky change into a clean set of clothes, warm sweatpants and one of Steve’s own shirts, and into his bed, not listening when he begged Steve to be allowed to sleep on the ground instead. 


Bucky felt guilty when he woke up hours later to hear Steve sobbing beside him. The bed shook beneath them and it made him want to scream and cry and apoligize for being a fuck up. But when he had started to apologize, Steve had quickly shushed him. 


“It’s not you I’m mad at, it’s the person who hurt you I’m mad at,  doll. You are doing amazing, love, and I just want you to be happy.” Stevie explained before gently kissing Bucky’s forehead and pulling him close to his body. 


And that’s how they fell asleep. Two broken halves of a whole, crying and clinging to each other like they were the last people left in this entire world (because to each other, they truly were). 

“Hey kid, if you’re feeling up to it can you please come into the living room? I have a surprise for you.” 


Bucky’s hands tightened around the fabric of the comforter when he heard Steve’s voice. It was loud, the Brooklyn accent clearly making its way into the bedroom despite the closed door, and it caused a little bit of anxiety to pool in the man’s stomach (despite him knowing that Stevie would never put him in a situation that was unsafe or made him uncomfortable in general). 


Usually when Alexander wanted something from him, he wouldn’t pose it as a question and if he did there was never any choice in the matter. His job was to listen to Alexander and obey without complaints or asking any questions. 


Stevie, on the other hand, always stated everything as a question. He never dared force Bucky into anything his was uncomfortable with and always made sure the young man knew there was an option to not participate or have Steve elaborate on what he was asking. 


Regardless of Steve always posing things as questions with the definite option of saying no, saying no still caused him great anxiety. He was terrified that one word would cause a split in their relationship, having been conditioned to always do everything Alexander ever asked of him. He knew logically that Steve wasn’t like that and that the man wouldn’t be mad at him for saying no, but that didn’t mean his brain was in the loop and wouldn’t get mad at him for making his needs known. 


“You ok in there, Buck? You don’t need to come if you don’t want to, but I think you’re going to like this surprise.” Steve assured from the other room and this time Bucky slowly got up from the bed. He was curious to see what the surprise was and he was sure Steve wasn’t setting him up for something unkind or that he wouldn’t like. 


Bucky scooped up a book into his left hand, but he quickly dropped it when entered the living room. There, sitting on the couch, feet kicked onto the coffee table and a cup of tea in one hand was his former college roommate, Sam Wilson. The man, who had previously been engaging in a conversation with Steve, glanced up when he heard the book thud on the ground. His face formed into a lopsided grin and he roughly placed the cup of tea onto the coffee table before getting up and walking over to where Bucky was standing. 


Sam pulled the shorter man into a soft hug, wrapping one arm around Bucky’s back and giving it a firm pat. He smelled like coffee grounds and books and it made Bucky want to  melt even further into the hug, feeling warm and fuzzy at the platonic display love.


“I missed you, dude!” he whispered in Bucky’s ear. “I haven’t seen you since that creepy old man whisked you away and had you drop out. I was really worried about you and I spent so long trying to find you. I had absolutely know idea where you went and I was really spooked about that. But then Steve here reached out to me on Facebook and wanted to know come over to see you.”


Bucky stilled at first when Sam mentioned Alexander, but he quickly shook his head to rid himself of the thoughts of his ex-boyfriend (it  truly wasn’t worth getting caught up in the negativity) and he melted into the hug Sam was offering. It felt good to receive this form of such  casual platonic affection and his entire body felt like glowing with excitement. 


He hadn’t seen Sam in months and the fact that his friend still cared about him after all this time made him feel so unbelievably happy. It meant the world to him that he had a friend who truly and wholly cared about and loved him, despite him disappearing from their friendship. 


“I missed you too, man,” Bucky whispered back, his voice cracking slightly and then oh god, then he was crying. Big, fat tears landed on sleeves of Sam’s shirt and Bucky went to pull away, embarrassed. But Sam wouldn’t let him pull away and rather he was stuck in the man’s rock hard embrace until they were both sobbing and Stevie was tentatively wrapping his arms around the two of them in a group hug. 


It felt warm and safe and for the first time in a long time, the painful thoughts and fear were fading away and he was left only with the happiness. Healing was hard, but with a good friend and a sorta boyfriend at his side, he had faith that he could do this. He was going to be ok one day, he had to be ok and he had people willing to help and support him through the entire process.


That night the three of them spent hours snuggled up on the couch watching bad cooking shows, animated films meant for five year olds  and rom-coms that made Bucky’s entire heart feel like it was melting. 


His legs were propped up casually on Sam’s lap and his back was flush against Stevie’s chest. As he ate cream straight from the carton and smelled Steve’s cologne and pencil shavings mixing together with Sam’s smell of books and coffee grounds, his lips turned up in a soft smile. 


He has felt broken for so long, but right then he felt a hundred and ten percent whole and complete.

It was several hours after Bucky received a phone call from his lawyer informing him of Alexander’s court date when he finally took matters into his own hands and sought Steve out. He felt like he was a planet that had fallen out of orbit, his heartbeat fast and his body trembling, and he wanted to stop himself before he went spiraling out of control and could no longer control his thoughts or feel himself anymore. 


Part of his recovery had been him trying to intervene at these moment sand navigate what is best for himself before he no longer felt in control. Whether it was using his healthy coping skills or contacting his support system, for him it was Steve and more recently Sam, Bucky started to chip away at dealing with his trauma in a positive way. 


So when he felt like he was about to lose himself to a panic attack or the own depths of his chaotic mind, he recognized that he should not isolate himself and he begrudgingly made his way into the living room. 


Steve was sitting there, staring at a sketchbook with concentration. His hand fluidly moved across the page as he held his left hand in front of his face in order to sketch. At first Bucky wanted to run away, terrified of interrupting Steve’s concentration. But the man quickly looked up at him, dropping his hand and closing his sketchbook.


“What’s up, sweetheart? You look upset.”


If this were a few weeks ago, Bucky probably would’ve turned around and left or insisted that nothing was wrong. But he really was getting better at sharing his feelings so he instead made his way over to Steve with the intention of sharing his feelings. 


He stood in front of the man nervously, pinching the inside of his wrist but quickly stopping when Steve wrapped his own hand around Bucky’s. Steve hated when Bucky purposely hurt himself and he refused to tolerate it when he was around, always verbally or physically stopping the younger man. 


Bucky toed his bare foot against the hardwood floor anxiously before he started talking. “I feel like I’m outside of my skin,” he started explaining. “Everything feels wrong and I feel like I’m drowning and suffocating and falling all at the same time and I need help,Stevie. I need you to bring me down, tell me what to and love me and just help me feel less like this. Because when I feel like this, I feel like I’m dying.  I really need help Steve, please.”


“Hey, hey now.” Steve stood up from his seat, wrapping his arms around Bucky’s shaking torso and pulling the younger man into a tight hug. “I promise that I’m here for you now and forever, sweetheart. I know you’re scared, but I’ve cared about you ever since you were this tiny, perfect kid who was struggling with the weight of the world and crappy parents and my feelings for you have only grown with time.”


Bucky was leaning into the man’s touch like it was the only thing in the world and sensing what else he needed to hear, Steve continued talking. “You’re such a good boy, Bucky, my good boy and I love you to Mars and back.”


Bucky giggled at that and Steve used that moment to lean down and press his lips gently onto the man’s within his embrace. He stopped giggling at the kiss and instead let himself melt into Stevie’s warm skin and the feeling of Steve’s lips on his. 


With Alexander everything had felt so raw and terrifying and toxic. Kissing Pierce felt like he was drowning. But kisses with Steve felt like he was floating and dancing and living and thriving all at once. Kissing Steve made him feel warm and safe and loved. Kissing with Steve made him feel like he had a lifeline and someone who truly, 110% cared about him. 


When Steve pulled away, Bucky was gasping for air regardless of the fact that it had been a sweet, chaste kiss (Stevie always made him feel breathless).  He tried to lean in again, wanting more, but Steve gently pulled away. Bucky whined softly, but Stevie quickly quieted him down and played with his hair softly. 


“You’re emotionally distraught right now and I don’t think you are able to consent to anymore than a sweet kiss at this moment in time ” Steve explained and Bucky smiled. It was nice knowing that Steve cared enough to think about his state of mind and whether or not he was able to give consent to the man. Alexander never thought about things like that and it was just another reason Stevie was so much better than  his ex.


So Bucky let the man continue hugging him, never getting mad that he wouldn’t do anything more than a hug and glowing at the amount of love and affection he was receiving. And when Steve suggested they cuddle on the couch, Bucky took it in stride. He curled himself right up to Steve’s chest, listening to his heartbeat and sighing contentedly as the man hand feed him pieces of dried fruit and ritz crackers. 


It wasn’t that Bucky didn’t want to be intimate with Steve, but he wasn’t sure his traumatized body would be able to take it and there was something so addictive about being loved and praised, hand fed and cuddled close to another person’s chest. It was a sign to him that he was loved and not just there as a quick fuck or a sexual service for someone else. Love came in all forms and Stevie was helping teach him that he was more than Alexander’s fuck toy or punching bag. 


No, he was loved. Bucky Barnes was loved.

Spending time with Sam Wilson was quickly becoming one of Bucky’s favorite activities. He hadn’t been aware of how truly isolated Alexander had made him until all of a sudden he had a friend who not only was open to hanging out but also called Pierce out on all the shit he heard about through Bucky. Sam was not scared to be cruel because he reminded Bucky over and over again that Alexander Pierce was a horrible man and he did not deserve any sort of kindness from Bucyk or any of his loved ones. 


For example, when they had been on a picnic earlier that day (Steve’s idea of how he could spend the time Steve had to be teaching without having a mental breakdown over being left alone), Sam had lost it when Bucky had told him about some of Alexander's rules.


It turned out normal people let their significant others sit at the table when eating meals and speak freely instead of only when being spoken to first (Sam had looked like he  was going to vomit when he heard about the whole peeing in the bathtub like a dog, thing). 


And it wasn’t like Bucky didn’t know this realistically, but there was something so undeniably comforting about somebody other than Steve pointing out how toxic and horrible his relationship with Alexander Pierce truly had been. With the trial coming up so quickly, that really was what Bucky needed to hear, because his mind was constantly trying to distort the facts and convince him that he was in the wrong in this situation. 


Sam really was a good friend and he was glad to have him back in his life. He had made Bucky some homemade lemon poppyseed muffins, having remembered Bucky’s lemon obsession, and he now sat eating them on the couch while he waited for Steve to get home. 


Sam had dropped him off at his apartment about 30 minutes ago and when he saw that Steve was still out, the man had quickly offered to stay until Steve returned(clearly not wanting to leave his fragile friend alone). But Bucky insisted that he could handle it and he was now using this extra time to prove to himself that he could in fact handle it. He was healing and he needed to do this for his own sense of self and sanity. 


And  it really had gone well so far. He had peed in the bathroom like a normal person and ate a muffin at the table (again like a normal person) and now he was curled up on the couch under a heavy blanket watching a documentary about bees (having decided that the bee movie was ridiculously, but still  wanting something non triggering on the same topic. Bees were adorable and for some reason he had felt the need to obsess over them recently). 


It was weird to think that a few months ago he would be punished for doing these little normal things and it really made him feel aware of the fact that he had come quite far. He was healing and that was a good thing. 

“I think I both want to and am ready to try something, y'know.” Bucky waggled his eyebrows suggestively. “Sexy.”


Steve nearly choked on his veggie lo mein at the word ‘sexy’, half-chewed noodles and broccoli spewing into the white take out box and onto the surface of the kitchen table. He was looking at Bucky like he had two heads and his face was getting redder as he continued to choke on his half chewed dinner. 


Bucky quickly passed Steve the glass of lemon seltzer he had been drinking from, since Steve had opted to drink nothing with the meal, before he continued speaking. “Well you see, I’ve been doing really well lately and I like you and you like me and I just thought it might be something we could explore together… I’m not ready for you to y’know fuck me or anything like that.” 


Steve was choking again now, this time seltzer spraying onto the table and wetting the folded up paper towels they were using as napkins and the white takeout boxes full of fried rice and lo mein. His face was bright red and it was a strange sight to see the usually composed artist so flustered. 


“But maybe I can give you a blow job or something more simple like that… I just want to feel connected to you in that way, Stevie.”


The man in front of him was now using a half damp napkin to clean the corners of his mouth and he straightened his light tan sweater with shaking fingers.  He ran one hand through his blonde hair and tried to look more composed than he had before. 


“I have no problem with you wanting to be close to me, sweetheart. In fact, I really want you to feel close to me. But I want you to be really sure of what you’re asking for love. I would never intentionally hurt you, but that doesn’t mean that I couldn’t accidentally hurt you. You’ve been doing so much better recently, but you still have a long way to go and we just need to make sure to talk about it before anything happens between us” 


Steve’s eyebrows were furrowed and his blue eyes were dark and glassy. Bucky wanted to touch them in a weird way, but touching eyes was something you just didn’t do. So instead he sighed, poking his skin for a mere second with the sharp, greasy end of a chopstick before Steve swiped the wood from his grip. Bucky wasn’t in the mood to talk about how he shouldn’t be hurting himself, so instead he continued the only slightly less unbearable conversation. 


“I can’t promise I won’t get hurt or even that I won’t flashback, and I know that it’s a lot to put on you and you might not feel comfortable  with it.” Bucky wished he still had the chopstick to stab himself with when he saw Steve’s pained expression. “But the difference between doing something with you and something with Alexander is not only the consent, because I’m finally starting to realize that Alexander truly never had it, but also the intentions. Pierce wanted to hurt me, but you never would. You love me and you treat me so well and I trust you not to hurt me.” Bucky’s fidgeting hand moved to rest above Steve’s own hand. “I really do trust you Steve.”


Steve was staring at him now, love and adoration in his expression. “Ok, sweetheart. We can try something, but we need to talk a lot more before it happens. So it’s not happening tonight. I also need you to understand that I will always listen whenever you say ‘no’ or ‘stop’ and I will never, ever push you farther or make you feel bad for wanting to stop. I’m not sure if having a safeword is the best for this situation, because I don’t want you to forget or feel uncomfortable and it’s important that it is clear what you mean.”


Bucky scrunched his nose, taking a deep breath and reminding himself that it was ok to make his needs known. “I honestly don’t think I could say ‘no’ or ‘stop in those situations, Stevie. Whenever I said stuff like that, Alexander would disregard it and I know you would always listen to me no matter what, but those words feel tainted by him.”


Steve flipped the chopstick between his fingers, clearly thinking, before he started speaking again. “That’s totally fine sweetheart and in that case I want you to think of a safeword. Take your time and when you figure something out that you are sure not to forget, come to me. Then we can discuss the rest of the logistics and what makes you feel the most comfortable.”


“What exactly do you mean by safe word?” Bucky tentatively asked, wanting to make sure they were on the same page. And now Steve wasn’t choking, no Steve was worse than choking. The man looked absolutely murderous, like he was about to punch a wall or oh god… Bucky flinched in the slightest action of fear. He knew Steve wouldn’t actually hurt him but that didn’t mean he wasn’t scared; and Steve automatically relaxed his expression. 


“I’m so sorry that I scared you, doll. It just makes my heart hurt to know that you were in a Dom/Sub relationship for so long and no one taught you what a safeword really is. I know that you’ve heard that word before and probably roughly get it, but it’s important that you deeply understand its meaning. And I swear if I ever see that asshole again, he’ll be sorry. But anyways, love, a safeword is a word that usually a sub gets that they can say at anytime during a scene and their dom will automatically stop. If you’re gagged you get a nonverbal safeword like tapping, so your dom can know in any situation. I’m not the best dom in the world or anything, but I would never do a scene with a sub who did not have a safeword. It’s dangerous for a sub to not have a safeword, subs are supposed to have the power in these situations and it’s seriously not ok to not give them an out or control over what happens. In some situations lack of safewords could cause a sub serious harm or even death. For example if a dom was choking you and didn’t listen to you when you signaled that you couldn’t breath in a dangerous and not sexy way, then you could pass out or even die at the hands of your dom. Safewords are one of the key components of relationships like ours.” Bucky flushed when Steve said those words. “And I won’t do anything with you without one.”


Bucky nodded his head slowly, because sure he had heard the word safeword before, but he had never heard it in a context where the sub held the power and the dom actually listened. With Alexander, safewords had been a competition for the man to see how far he could push Bucky and how uncomfortable he could make the younger man. With Steve, it sounded like safewords were important parts of trust and something that would actually be listened to. 


“Alrighty then,” Bucky confirmed. “I’ll come up with a safeword and then we’ll talk some more.”


Stevie smiled, passing back the chopsticks with a pointed glare clearly conveying that they were for food and not for hurting himself. Bucky rolled his eyes, but nonetheless only used the utensils for his food. Not hurting himself and coming up with a safeword, how hard could it be?

It turned out talking about sex was a lot more boring than actual partaking in sex. After Bucky had decided on the his safeword being mint, eating mint chocolate chip ice cream almost every day since he moved in got in his head apparently, Steve and him had started talking about the logistics of them having any sort of sexual relations. It was tedious to talk about and brought up all sorts of emotions that Bucky wasn’t even aware he had- Alexander had really messed him up to the point where even the word sex made him naseous sometimes. 


But the way Steve talked about sex made him feel curious and excited and sexy. He made it sound like a carefully choreographed dance between two enthusiastic partners that wanted nothing more than to dance together. 


So slowly they started chipping away at the trauma which was Bucky’s sex lfie. And it all became worth it later that week when Bucky was safely and happily knelt next to the couch on a soft cushion. His hands were placed gently behind his back and Stevie’s erection was at eye level with his face slotted between the older man’s thighs. 


One of Steve’s large hands was threaded in his hair. Every few seconds the man would gently tug Bucky’s head forward until he was so close to the erection he could smell it, but never close enough that his mouth was on Steve. The man had made it very clear that when and how he touched Steve was entirely up to Bucky. And in this moment he was feeling so deep in his submission, it felt like the hand in his hair was his only connection to this world and he let Steve guide him easily. 


Bucky was only giving Steve kitten licks, tracing his tongue softly over the underside and over the tip. They had decided that the feeling of all that weight in his mouth would probably make him freak out or feel like he was drowning in the sensation of being forced to deepthroat Alexander. 


One would think that the small amount of contact wouldn’t satisfy either of them, but the feeling of the hand in his hair and the taste of Stevie on his tongue and the knowledge that he had a safeword and this could stop at his say so the second he felt even a little bit uncomfortable or unsafe, made him feel not only incredibly turned on, but also incredibly loved and safe and protected by the man. He loved Steve and Steve loved him and that’s all he needed. 


Bucky licked the underside, his eyes fluttering shut in a combination submission and ecstasy. He tentatively wrapped his mouth around the tip only letting a small amount into his mouth, not wanting to overwhelm himself in a quest to make himself and Steve feel pleasure. 


Steve scratched at Bucky’s scalp, murmuring a sweet, “Good boy, Bucky. You’re a good boy sweetheart. I’m so proud of you love, so so proud of my perfect, precious good boy.” 


Bucky preened at the compliment, letting his skin flush red and flicking his tongue over Stevie’s skin. He felt like he was floating and his happiness and the praise mixed together caused him to feel like he was flying. He was loved, he reminded himself over and over again, he was so dearly loved. Stevie loved him. 


Steve continued to scratch at his scalp and Bucky simply sat there, feeling the non threatening weight in his mouth and letting himself be pet and praised and all around loved by the man above him. 


The interaction only lasted about twenty more minutes before Bucky was feeling like it was better to take a step away before his brain clouded with unwanted memories. When he signaled this to Steve, he held his breath, expecting the worst and not ready for the man to be upset with him for making his needs known. 


But no such thing happened and instead Stevie helped him stand up, pressing a kiss to each knee and gently leading Bucky to the bathroom. Once there, the man took a cool damp cloth and helped soothe it over Bucky’s warm forehead.


Never stopping the praise following from his mouth, Stevie helped Bucky cool off and then led him over to the bed- where he let Bucky lay down with his head in Steve’s lap. 


He fell asleep to the feeling of Steve’s hands in his hair and a smile on his face. As he melted into the mattress and soft yellow comfort, his tongue darted out to remember the taste of Stevie on his lips- a taste he never wanted to forget. 

Bucky swore the world was in sync with his emotions on the day of the trial. It was raining out, dreary grey subway water sloshing onto his dark blue dress pants as he and Stevie trudged up the stairs of the terminal. 


He was wearing his dark grey shirt buttoned up to the very top and he felt like he was suffocating. The way the shirt sat around his throat felt as suffocating as the collar Alexander used to make him wear. It squeezed at his skin and for a second Bucky loved the pain, until he remembered that he wasn’t supposed to like the feeling of pain. Pain was no longer a coping mechanism to deal with bad days. Pain was something Bucky was not allowed to inflict on himself because self inflicted pain was bad. 


Steve taught him meticulously over the past few months that pain was bad. Everytime he wanted to ground himself through pain or hurt himself as a punishment, the man would grab his hand or distract him. Sometimes he would softly chide that Bucky wasn’t being a good boy when he hurt himself, which seemed to work even more than physically intervening in the situation. 


Praise tended to act as a sort of incentive in Bucky’s life. He had slowly started to replace his needed for pain with a need for praise and soft words and hugs; and Stevie had him hooked on the euphoric feelings of being celebrated and loved. 


Bucky reached out to slot his hand with Steve’s as the giant grey stone courthouse loomed into view on the end of the block. He really wanted to run away, duck his head and let his tears plop onto the ground like a mini rainstorm. But he was stronger than that and he needed to prove both himself and Alexander wrong. So he held his head high as the building became closer and closer and as he finally trudged his feet over the steps and as he checked in and went through security. 


When he entered the room, after being fetched by an official looking man in a work suit, he felt like his heart was going to stop beating. Steve held his hand tightly, refusing to let Bucky dig his fingers into the fleshy part of his palm and also serving to ground the younger man.


Steve ducked his head close to Bucky and he focused on the way his lover smelled and the feeling of his dress shirt pressing against the bare skin of his neck.


“I promise everything will be alright, sweetheart. I’m right here if you need me and if you want to go, we can be out of here in seconds.” His voice was sweet like honey and Bucky focused on the way the words curled around him softly and settled deep in his mind, soothing him and giving him hope that this would all turn out alright in the end. 


Alexander looked different, yet far too similar to when he last saw the man on that night so long ago. He was wearing an expensive suit, his grey hair tucked back and an expensive watch shimmering on his wrist as his tapped his hand on the wooden table in front of him. 


He was facing forward and when Bucky froze at the mere sight of the back of his head, Steve gripped his hand tighter. The man led him to sit all the way in the back row, next to an aisle so he had the ability to get up and leave at anytime he started to feel even a little bit uncomfortable. 


Bucky knew that this wasn’t the first day of the trail, this was only the day they needed his testimony and he was only allowed into the room for that purpose. Bucky was happy due that fact because he wasn’t sure he could handle listening to the legal definitions of his boyfriend’s abuse and attempted murder. 


It took only a few minutes before entering the room and being called to the stand, but in that short amount of time Bucky felt like a mess. His hands were shaking as Stevie tentatively let go of them and he felt like he was going to throw up.


He wasn’t ready to face Alexander, no matter what all those lawyers said. He wasn’t even ready to hear his entire hell of a life described as just another day in court  (Bucky being just another abuse victim, hurt by their partner in unimaginable ways).


 No, he wasn’t ready to be here. It made him insecure and upset and feel like his entire world was crumbling and falling apart at the seams. It made him feel scared and anxious and anxious and all he wanted was to be in bed- curled up next to Steve and having his hair pet and being told that he was a good boy. Because he was a good boy- he had to be a good boy. 


When he settled into the hard wooden chair and swore to tell the truth and then finally looked up, he felt like his heart was going to stop because Alexander’s light blue eyes were staring back at him and he could feel every inch of his body screaming out at him to get up and run. 


Alexander was staring at him like he wanted to stab him all over again and after Bucky blinked, all he could see is the man’s hands covered in blood- in Bucky’s blood. And he was hyperventilating now. And he needed to run. Run. Run. 


And now there was vomit all over the witness stand, seeping onto the floor and running to pool at the lawyers feet, and within a second he was actually running. Past that little stupid wooden gate at the front of the court room and past Steve (and now Steve was following him, running too) and out the front door and down the steps and now Bucky was crying while wearing one of his best suits and sitting in a puddle of murky grey subway water. 


Steve was holding him like his life depended on it, but all Bucky could see was the blood on Alexander’s hands and all he could taste and smell was vomit and oh god- this was a very bad idea. 


The lawyers sent him an edible arrangements, one of the fancy ones with chocolate strawberries, a few days later as a form of an apology (as if chocolate covered strawberries and melon balls and pineapple cut into the shape of stars could fix his trauma).


But they didn’t fix anything and instead Bucky left them on their counter (he smiled at the thought that it was their counter and not just Steve’s counter) until they rotted. The pungent smell of overripe fruit mixed with the smell of pencil shavings and the lemon grass air diffuser Steve got him in hopes of making him feel calmer after having such a rough few days. 


Ever since the disaster at trial, Bucky felt like he was falling apart all over again. He had eaten nothing but mint chocolate chip ice cream for three whole days and had refused to drink water unless Steve was holding the glass to his lips and coaxing him to drink with the promise that ‘good boys drink their water’. 


In addition, he had done nothing but sit curled up on the couch or their bed watching animated movies after the whole ordeal. Stevie had to pre-watch or choose the movies for him however, because even the smallest amount of blood caused him to have a meltdown or refuse to eat or drink his water or look Steve in the eyes or talk at all. 


He wasn’t trying to be difficult, but seeing Alexander again made him remember all the rules Steve had tried so hard to rid from his system. It made him feel vulnerable and his body physically wouldn’t do anything until Steve promised him that he was being a good boy and that wouldn’t won’t be mad at Bucky. 


The relapse in his attitude also led to a relapse in his self harming habits, until Bucky was covered with Disney Princess bandaids and cute gold star stickers from head to toe. It was a system Steve and him had settled on after the trial. Every time Bucky would move to pinch or prod or poke at his skin, Steve would place a sticker or bandaid over the skin he wanted to hurt- that way he would see it as a reminder to not hurt himself and something cute to look at in the meantime. 


It worked for the most part and Bucky came to enjoy having his skin covered in gentle reminders from Steve, his loving and caring dom, that he was ok and that he shouldn’t hurt himself no matter what. Gold Stars reminded him that he was strong and they felt like little gifts from Stevie. Bucky was proud to have the reminders on his skin and he wore them with pride, tracing his fingers over the smooth side whenever he felt urges that caused fear to pump through his body. 


Now Bucky was kneeling in front of the couch, tracing one of the gold stars on the inside of his wrist. His head was Steve’s thigh, his face pressed into the cool skin, as the man above him sketched in a worn out drawing pad and drank green tea.


He had been previously trying to hand feed him pieces of lemon cake pop from the coffee shop he once had a job at (and was hoping to return to once he felt more human than trauma survivor), but the had stopped trying to force Bucky to eat the baked good once the younger man had snarled at him like a feral dog and snapped his teeth threateningly. Bucky  had felt embarrassed at the actions, but they almost felt ingrained in his body and Steve hadn’t freaked out at him. 


The man had frowned, sighing deeply and shuddering, before he had gone on as if nothing had happened in the first place. Bucky was relieved the man hadn’t pointed it out, because he wasn’t sure he could deal with someone else reactions to the fear that manifested in his body in almost inhuman ways. 


Steve was playing with his hair now and Bucky leaned into the touch, letting the warmth and happiness transfer through the man’s finger tips. 


“You know that he didn’t break you, right love?” Steve asked and Bucky paused at the words. The question had broken the silence, but it didn’t cause him discomfort- it only caused him to think. 


For the longest time he had felt like Alexander had truly and completely broken him. He felt like his entire life was in that man’s hands and he had taken it and crushed him into a million pieces. He had been so young and naive and relieved to be away from one abusive situation, never daring to look back at his abusive parents and the shitty town he had come from, that he hadn’t realized he had landed right back in another one. 


Alexander had isolated him. He took him away from his education and friends and forced him to be quiet and compliant and only talk to the other man. He had then slowly started to control every part of his life, taking away his financial freedom by forcing him to work only certain hours and spend his money only on certain things. He had even taken away his ability to eat and pee and sleep and exist alone. 


Pierce had turned him into a pet, manipulating him until he no longer recognized himself or had any freedom at all. And hurting him on deep emotional levels and physically bruising and cutting and scaring his skin. 


Then Steve had come into the picture. Perfect, amazing Steve, who had already saved him from one abusive situation and seemed up to the task of saving him from another. Steve had helped him realize that Alexander was doing nothing but hurting him. He helped him realize that sex should always be consensual and being kinky wasn’t an excuse to hurt your partner. Steve had swooped in and like in their childhood had saved him from not only Alexander, but also himself. 


If it wasn’t for Steve, Bucky would be dead and there were no two ways about it. Steve saved him and Bucky owed the man his life. 


Steve stood up from the couch, keeping one hand in Bucky’s hair as he moved to sit in front of Bucky. 


“You are not broken, Bucky. You are amazing and strong and resilient and you are not broken. I’ve known you for so long, sweetheart, and you’ve been dealt a really crappy hand in life . But you are stronger than you think and you’re going to make it now, just like you were able to make it when you were little. And I promise that things will get better for you one day, you just have to wait for things to start looking up.”


Bucky stared straight into Steve’s eyes before leaning in and softly pressing his lips to Steve’s. He put all his thoughts and emotions into that kiss, because Stevie was the part of his life that was looking up, feeling fireworks and flower petals and soft ocean waves crashing. He felt like their souls were connecting through that kiss and he never wanted to leave this perfect man in front of him. He wanted to grow old with him and never ever stop loving him.


Pulling slightly away, Bucky whispered into Steve’s lips. “I know Stevie, I know I’m not broken. You saved me Stevie, you really saved me.” 


Bucky pressed their lips together one more time. “I love you Steve, I love you so much.”