Eight months after Insight, Bucky showed up.
The team had just finished an afternoon of combat practice. Steve had managed to corral them all into doing a communal meal, something that he was sure only worked because they all were starving. They were all tired, if only because of the workout.
Steve was more than a bit exhausted in general.
Exhausted. Disappointed. Frustrated. The last year had not gone well for him, and from the looks that his team gave him from time to time, they could see it too.
Just as they were about to dig in to some heavenly looking take-out, the tower’s alarm system came on.
“Intruder alert. Unauthorized personnel in Common Room A,” Jarvis’s voice calmly announced just as the Winter Soldier dropped from an open panel in the ceiling to stand a couple feet right behind Steve.
“What the shit, Jarvis!” Tony exclaimed.
“Bucky!” Steve felt like his heart was going to fall out of his chest.
Steve could tell that his team behind him had pulled weapons and that Tony was quietly calling for a suit. He shifted so he was in between them and Bucky. The last thing he wanted was for this to move to violence.
“Bucky,” Steve said again softly.
He looked good. Really good, in fact. He was in the full Winter Soldier tactical gear, all shining leather, weapons, and Kevlar, though he’d left off the mask and goggles. His hair hung freely down to his shoulders and it had a gentle wave to it. It looked touchable and soft. A bit of stubble graced his chin, something Steve had always secretly liked.
Steve was struck again by how big he was. Before the war, Bucky was tall and lanky; not huge for an Alpha, but not tiny by any means. After the serum Steve managed to out-bulk him and top his height by a couple of inches, even though he was an omega.
Whatever Hydra had done to Bucky wrought just as many changes to him as the serum did to Steve. They about equaled each other in height now, and Bucky had packed on muscle to the point where he made Steve look smaller in comparison.
And he smelled so so good. Like ginger and gun powder and sun-warmed fur all wrapped up together.
His eyes crinkled as he looked at Steve.
“Bucky, do you remember me?” Steve asked tentatively.
“Mate,” Bucky growled out.
It wasn’t the most eloquent of responses, but it got the point across.
Relief as bright as day speared through Steve. Bucky must have seen it, because his answering smile was huge.
“Wait, what.” Stark’s voice was flat with disbelief.
And in a flash Bucky was on Steve, arms wrapped around him and licking into his mouth like it held the sweetest ambrosia. Steve was giddy. He fisted one hand in Bucky’s beautiful hair and wound the other through the straps on Bucky’s tac gear; all the while attempting to get as much of Bucky’s tongue in him as possible. Dimly Steve recognized the sound of a weapon or two clattering to the ground, but he ignored this information as irrelevant.
“Well. That explains a lot,” Sam mused.
Barton just snickered a bit in the background.
“What the ever loving fuck, Cap? I thought Peggy was your bond mate,” Tony demanded.
Steve pulled himself away from Bucky’s glorious lips just long enough to glare at Stark. “I told you she wasn’t, Tony.”
Bucky took this opportunity to scent along Steve’s neck and give a long flat lick across the scent glands there. “Mine,” he growled, nearly purring with satisfaction, and glared at the rest of the room. Challenging them with teeth bared, Steve noted with the small portion of his brain that was still working.
That was significantly more feral a reaction that Steve was expecting.
He couldn’t find it in himself to care. Bucky was here.
A light burn bloomed across Steve’s cheeks. The rest of the Avengers were staring. Natasha still had her gun trained on them, but Clint and Thor had already gone back to eating. Sam looked smug and Tony stood there with his mouth dropped open. Bruce just sat at the table with his eyebrows raised.
Seizing the moment of Steve’s distraction, Bucky slid his metal hand down the back of Steve’s pants causing him to squeak.
“Bucky! Hey, watch it! There are. Bucky. Bucky! There are people here!” Steve frantically tried to pull Bucky’s hand away from his ass, but while he was doing that the other one snuck under the front of his shirt.
This is how he was going to die. He was going to die right here of sheer mortification. Bucky was completely unperturbed.
“So?” he asked in between licks over Steve’s neck.
“So there are people here! We are not doing this in front of people!”
“That was war! It wasn’t like there was privacy on the front! Watch the hand there mister…”
“It doesn’t count if the other person is involved! Hey, I’m serious now…!”
“He walked in on us, that doesn’t count either!”
At that, Bucky stopped what he was doing immediately and moved his hands to the much safer venue of Steve’s waist. He gazed at Steve earnestly, looking slightly bereft.
By this time Clint, Thor, and Sam had all devolved into bellowing laughter. Tony was stuck muttering, “What. The.Fuck,” with an expression that was two parts impressed and one part disbelieving. Natasha had relaxed her pistol so she could leer at them and even Bruce seemed to be holding in snickers.
The fact that the unsuppressed scent of aroused alpha was permeating the room didn’t help one bit and at this point Steve was certain that his own scent was pretty obvious too. It had been so long and Bucky was right there, ready to touch and be touched. It was every fond dream Steve had ever had all come to life.
“Mate?” Bucky asked quietly while gazing up through his criminally long eye lashes. As if Steve might reject him. A tiny hint of sadness filtered into Bucky’s scent and Steve could feel his mate’s distress through their bond.
“Oh, no, Bucky, that’s not it. We’re bonded, honey. You’re it for me, always have been.” Bucky perked up a little at this. “We just need to talk a bit first, okay?”
“Honey!” Tony choked out in the background.
Bucky hummed in agreement and went back to nosing along Steve’s jawline.
“Bucky? What happened? Why didn’t you come sooner?” Steve tried to keep the hurt out of his voice. That wouldn’t help anyone, he thought bitterly, and he would hate the looks of pity it might garner from his team.
Sensing his distress anyways, Bucky cuddled closer.
“Not safe,” he growled out.
“Not safe for you, or for me?”
“Yes.” Bucky rubbed his face against Steve’s neck and jaw, mingling their scents.
“The Hydra bases; you’ve been out hunting them,” Natasha stated.
Bucky hummed in agreement, not deviating from his self-appointed task of trying to make Steve spontaneously combust with embarrassment and lust. He breathed across the wet skin of Steve’s neck and Steve gave a full body shiver.
“Right. Safety.” Steve tried to stay on track. Deep breaths. Deep calming breaths. That didn’t help at all. “Why come back now? Is everything okay? Are you okay?”
“Fine. Safe,” came the low reply.
When Bucky gently nipped at Steve’s neck, he broke.
“Right. Well. That’s good enough for me. Time to go.” Steve grabbed Bucky by the arm and hauled him toward the elevator. “We’ll be on my floor for the next couple of hours, don’t bother us unless the world is ending.”
“Days,” Bucky added with a deep chuckle.
Steve let out a delighted little ‘eep!’ right as Bucky pressed him against the wall of the elevator.
“I cannot believe that just happened,” Clint stated, pointing at the elevator with his chopsticks.
Tony had to agree. As hilarious as that had been, he was still kind of shocked.
“Holy shit.Who knew that Cap could smell like something other than righteousness and sadness,” Tony snarked. Deep down he knew that was a little unfair, the guy had been through a lot. But the same was true of all of them. They’d all been through a lot. “Also, am I the only one who has a burning desire to know what happened with the chorus line?”
He picked up a carton of food and started to pick at it. Normally he’d be well on his way to the lab by now, but this was way more entertaining.
“Should we be worried?” Bruce asked, absolutely ignoring Tony’s inquiry. Party pooper.
“You want to get in between that, you go right on ahead,” Clint laughed.
“No wonder the conditioning broke when they fought each other in DC. They’re a fucking bonded pair,” Sam mused.
“I know little of this ritual of bonding, for it is one Asgard does not hold to, but the Captain’s shieldmate seems unwell. Do you truly think our fellow warrior will be safe with one so damaged?” Thor spoke between enormous bites of fried jumbo shrimp. “As his shield brother, it is my honor to defend him if needs be. Even from one once beloved.”
“Bonded pairs are special.” Sam gave a half shrug. “Once you bond with someone, you get a feeling for what’s going on with them. It’s said that in particularly strong bonds it’s almost like a psychic connection; emotion sharing and all that. There’s been a bunch of research on it, but no one can really explain it.”
“But Barnes is damaged,” Natasha remarked in between bites of egg roll.
“Dude is totally feral,” Clint agreed.
“That happens,” Sam sighed. “Especially with vets who’ve suffered severe trauma. They come back and instinct just…takes over. I see it all the time. Honestly, after all the crap that dude’s been through we’re lucky he’s even vaguely functional.”
“I bet Steve’s glad he’s functional,” Tony couldn’t help but say.
“Dude! Not cool bro, I nearly snorted some rice,” Clint choked out between hacking up bits of fried rice and giggling maniacally. Tony grinned evilly at him.
“Seriously, though, this has got to be huge for Steve,” Bruce remarked. “He’s struggling. I mean, we’ve all seen it. It’s obvious he’s struggling. But, well. I suppose I thought he would be able to work through it. He’d re-adjust to the new normal. Now maybe he doesn’t need to. I mean, having your bonded mate back…”
“Yeah. Speaking of which, how did you know Steve was bonded, Stark? He’s never mentioned it, and I don’t know of anyone who’s seen him without a shirt on.” Natasha queried, eyebrow raised.
“Nick’s files. What I didn’t get from the helicarrier during that whole aliens thing, I had Jarvis search through after your little dump on the internet. They changed his clothes after they dragged him out of the ice. It was just assumed that it was Peggy’s mark.”
“So we’re just going to let the Winter Soldier move in,” Natasha flatly stated.
“Not sure we could really stop him without some pretty drastic casualties on our part,” Clint replied. “You’ve seen the guy. More importantly, you’ve seen what he can do. Him coming here, showing himself in front of us, that was courtesy. He could’a just kidnapped Steve and we’d be none the wiser.”
“If by ‘kidnapped Steve’ you mean ‘Steve runs after him with open arms’, then yah,” Tony snorted.
“He’s dangerous.” Natasha glared around the room.
“Pretty sure the only thing he’s dangerous to right now is Steve’s pup scout image.” Tony rolled his eyes and smirked. “Jarvis, keep an eye on them for me.”
“Captain Rogers has instituted the highest level of privacy protocols for his floor. While I can monitor any movement into or out of the suite, I am unable to see or hear what is going on inside. Something I’m sure I should be grateful for,” Jarvis replied.
“What! Override it.”
“I cannot. Respecting privacy protocols is part of my base programing, per Miss Potts request.”
“Shit.” Tony sort of even remembered that conversation with her. It was part the allowances he made when he invited the Avengers to stay here. Hard for a group of soldiers and spies to trust someone who is constantly watching them, or at least that was the argument.
Which was ridiculous. No one is more trustworthy than Jarvis. Their loss. Tony thoroughly enjoyed his awesome electronic butler; at this point he was pretty sure Jarvis was central to life. And caffeine. Same thing.
Sam whipped out his phone and started typing at the screen.
“There. I let him know we’ll be expecting phone call proof of life at least once a day. Because, let me tell you, as worried as I sort of am about Steve’s health and safety, I do not want to walk in on whatever it is they probably have going on there.”
Tony’s imagination took him far away for a moment. Natasha kicked him hard in the shin.
“No. Whatever you’re thinking. No.”
“Whaaaat! Come on! Super soldier porn. Can you imagine the profits? My god, I’d become a billionaire all over again.” Tony fondly thought over the numbers.
“Which is exactly why we all insisted on strict privacy settings for our floors,” Natasha replied.
“Dude, that’s kinda hot,” Clint mused.
“Yeah, yeah it really is,” Tony agreed. Okay, derail that thought or Pepper was going to kick his ass later. She always knew when he was planning something. He suspected Jarvis of tattling.
Bruce just shook his head.
The whole team met up for breakfast the next morning, solely because they all wanted to hear how Sam’s phone call to Steve would go. They didn’t always get along spectacularly, but this right here was a bonding moment and they were all dying to be apart of it.
Sam was kind enough to put the call on speaker phone.
First round of ringing went to voicemail.
“They’re probably asleep,” Clint suggested around the breakfast burrito hanging out of his mouth.
The second round of ringing connected just before voicemail picked up again.
An indeterminate grunt came across the line. Snickers flickered around the breakfast table.
“Hey there, Cap. Just checking in on you. Makin’ sure that assassin buddy of yours didn’t kill you in the night.” Sam grinned. He was both undeniably relieved that Steve answered his phone and utterly amused at the state Steve answered it in.
“Mmmff? Ugghh. Sam? Wha? No. We’re,” there was a loud yawn sound,“fine. Heh. Very, very fine. Just got to sleep a little bit ago actually…” Steve’s voice trailed off and the group could hear the sound of moving fabric.
Quickly followed by a deep throated purr.
“Oh. G’morning sweethe—oh.Oh. Gotta go bye.” Click.
Sam thought he had never laughed so hard in his entire life. Based on how loud everyone else was he probably wasn’t alone.
Gathering together to get a verbal check in from Steve became a morning ritual for the team. The calls were inevitably short and usually hilarious. After the fourth day they started a betting pool for how long it would take for the super soldiers to come up for air. Tony hadn’t had so much fun at breakfast since…never.
“I’m just saying,” Tony argued. “They’ll be out of food in a week. Their super soldiers! They’ve both got to eat like horses! Brucie, back me up!”
“No. I’m staying out of this.” Bruce held up his hands as if the gesture itself would ward off the whole conversation.
“Tony’s got a point,” Clint agreed.
“See! Robin Hood is on my side!”
“No way, Stark. Steve’s a Depression baby. I bet he’s got food stockpiled in there. No, they’re not gonna come out until something makes them come out. My money’s on Fury,” Natasha stated, looking like the paragon of self-assurance.
“Nat’s got a good point, too,” Clint hummed. He was on his second pot of coffee. Tony was on his third. Sleep was overrated.
“No way is Fury gonna be able to pull those two out of their sex den,” Sam replied. “Do you remember how Cap reacted for Fury right before all that Insight crap? He was pissed at that Insight shit. Any pull that beta had with him is long gone now. Naw, it’ll be something else.”
“Huh. That makes sense. So when do you think they’re coming out?” Clint asked.
“Whenever Steve’s need to punch deserving assholes overcomes his libido. That’s their only shot, ‘cause I’m pretty sure Barnes took care of all his punching beforehand,” Sam theorized.
Groans all around.
“You know our Captain well, Son of Wil,” Thor said and clapped Sam on the back sending him stumbling forward a little bit. “He is one who is dedicated to his duty before all else.”
“Ug. Don’t remind me. That omega makes everyone else look bad just standing still,” Tony groused.
“Seems like a personal problem, Stark,” Natasha quipped back slyly.
He tossed a muffin at her, which she easily dodged. Rude.
On day seven, Fury showed up.
Tony was certain this was going to be fantastic so he had Jarvis send a message to the rest of the team, sans Captain Rocket Pop. Which is how Fury found himself faced with a whole group of superheroes.
Based on the squint of his eye, Tony was certain they were doing a shit job at concealing their amusement. Which actually made things better as far as he was concerned.
“Jarvis, please record this session. Make sure to get a close up of Nicky’s face. I want pics,” he whispered to the wall and was answered with a very quiet, “Acknowledged, Sir.”
“Nicky! Nickster! Mad Eye Moody himself! To what do we owe this dubious pleasure?” Tony grinned broadly only to be glared at in return.
“Rumor has it the Winter Soldier is here.”
“Reaaaaaaaaaaly,” Tony breathed out like a scandalized teenager. “What do you think guys, you seen the Winter Soldier anywhere this week?”
“Can’t say I have,” Natasha replied sweetly. “Clint?”
“Nope!” Clint popped the P sound at the end of word. “How ‘bout you Thor?”
“It is my great sorrow to relay that I have seen nothing beyond the norm.” Thor didn’t even bother hiding his shit-eating grin. “Doctor?”
“’Fraid I’ve been stuck in my lab all week. I wouldn’t know.” Bruce shrugged a little. “Sam?”
“No Winter Soldiers here, dude.” Sam shrugged. “Sorry.” He didn’t look sorry.
Fury shifted his jaw in irritation. Glee was building up inside Tony. This was going to be so fucking good.
“So that’s how you all are gonna play this, huh. Finally giving that whole team solidarity a try?” Fury’s voice dripped with disdain.
“Better late than never!” Tony tipped his green smoothie in salute. He and Fury didn’t get along most of the time. Generally because of his own authority problems, Tony had to admit, if only to himself. He did not like how heavy handed Fury could be.
Still. It was comedy gold to see The Spy so off balance.
“And the good Captain? Does he have something to say too?” Fury raised an eyebrow to Stark.
“What an excellent idea! We should ask the old Star Spangled Man with a Plan. Jarvis, give Cap a call, will you?”
Tony couldn’t wait for the payoff from this. After the first few days of morning phone calls, Steve had at least tried to make sure that he was unoccupied for the phone call; though as soon as Barnes discovered his distraction that didn’t tend to last long. That alpha was making up for seventy years of missing his mate all at once. It was kind of cute.
But Fury had shown up in the evening time. Unannounced.
Tony was grinning so hard it felt like his face was going to fall off. Fury was starting to look pretty pissed. And sort of worried. Clearly, this meeting was not going how the old spy had envisioned it would.
The phone rang over the speakers. And went to voicemail.
“Gee, I wonder if the good Captain is busy. Jarvis, try again,” Tony said cheerfully.
Again the phone rang and went to voicemail. The team had their check in for the day, so they knew that Steve was at least alive and breathing as of that morning. But Fury didn’t know that.
“You sure you folks have this one under control?” Fury snidely remarked. “I know you’re fond of your security system, Stark, but the Winter Soldier is a ghost story. He could have slipped in, gotten to Cap, and already left.”
“Oooo, you may be right,” Tony replied completely insincerely. “Jarvis, one more time for me please.”
The phone rang, and after three rings was picked up.
“The world better be fucking ending,” Steve answered raggedly. He was breathing like he’d been running all day and a second panting breath could be heard in the background.
Fury’s jaw dropped just a tiny bit and he blinked in shock.
YES! Tony fist pumped the air. Jarvis had to have gotten the shot. That shit was going on fucking Facebook. Tumblr. Instagram. Hell, he might put the photo on the company letter head.
“Sorry to interrupt buddy, but Fury showed up. Seems he’s looking for the Winter Soldier?”
Twin groans of frustration came across the line, followed by what might have been a head hitting a hard surface. Wall maybe? Headboard? Kitchen counter? Tony liked to cover all the bases.
“See? World’s fine. Back to sex,” the voice in the background demanded.
Steve groaned and there was that head thumping sound again.
“Tony, if the next call isn’t our regular check-in or a humanity threatening disaster, I will replace all your hair gel with shoe polish and all your lube with hand sanitizing gel. Oh my god, Bucky, your mouth…”
Fury snapped his jaw shut. And then opened it again to speak. And then snapped it shut again. A strangled, “Huh,” was all he could get out.
This was the best day.
“Yeaaahhhh,” Tony leered.
Fury took in the amused faces of the group before going back to Tony.
“That was a very specific threat,” Clint mentioned, looking mildly impressed.
Fury was kind of throwing off a wet-cat vibe; one part pissed, two parts sulky. “You do realize he killed your parents?” he bit out.
And like that the fun was sucked right out of the room.
Bringing out the big guns, wasn’t he. Well. That wasn’t unexpected. Besides, big guns are what Tony’s good at.
“I’ve seen the files. You do realize that Bucky Barnes is Captain Roger’s bonded mate?” Tony asked.
Fury stopped to look at him. “You’re not serious.”
“As a heart attack.” Which, given his history of chest issues, was something Tony took very seriously.
“So, what? You’re just going to ignore all the damage he’s done, how dangerous he is just because he’s screwing one of your teammates?”
“No. I’m going to take into account that the guy was acting under severe duress. You saw the files, too, don’t pretend you didn’t.” Tony raised an eyebrow and paced around the room. He kind of wanted a glass or five of scotch, but getting smashed in front of the super spy could lead to a brawl with the Iron Man suit and then Pepper would cut off his blueberry supply in retaliation. Need to stick to the smoothie. Everyone is better for it.
“He’s dangerous, Stark. You can’t control him.”
“Dangerous? That’s how you’re gonna play this? Really? Think his kill count is more than the Widow’s while she was with the Red Room? Or more than Clint’s while he was being controlled by Loki? Or how about the Hulk; how do they rate against each other? Or better yet, what about me. After all the weapons I made and all the blood that’s on my hands, which one of us do you think caused the most damage?”
Tony was well and truly pissed now. How dare this asshole come in here and try to tell them how to run their team after he had so spectacularly failed to manage his own house?
“At least Barnes wasn’t in his right mind when he was forced to murder. I racked up all the blood on my hands willingly and for profit,” Tony spat out.
He hated that part of his past, but he couldn’t ignore it. He was trying to do better. They all were. It was part of what made them a good pack. They understood each other, even in the worst of times.
“We’re all dangerous,” he said quietly. “Every single one of us. The very least that alpha deserves is the same second chance we got.”
“Not to mention the ramifications of attempting to harm Captain America’s bond mate,” Bruce added in. “The death of a bond mate is more than emotionally traumatic. Many don’t survive. I’m sure I don’t need to quote the suicide rates to you.”
Shit. The Valkyrie nose diving into the ocean. They all fucking missed it. Goddamn, no wonder Cap always smelled a little sad. The suppressants probably kept the scent down, but there’s only so much you can do against suicidal grief. Fucking fuck.
Tony took a breath and reminded himself that it wasn’t too late to help. Maybe now that his mate was back, Steve might actually want to feel better.
“Nor do you seem to take into account that our Captain would fight for the safety of his beloved,” Thor remarked gravely. “Has not your own history shown you to what lengths that fair warrior would stride in such a pursuit?”
“I thought I’d have your support in capturing a known terrorist; the alpha who killed JFK, who nearly lost us the Cold War, and who no doubt has sleeper trigger words imbedded into his brain,” Fury challenged. He looked pointedly at Natasha and Tony. “Just because he’s on your side now doesn’t mean that someone from Hydra can’t wander by and hijack his brain with one whisper. Giving him up is the best play for the safety of everyone.”
“No. It’s not,” Tony said resolutely. He slurped the last bit of his smoothie as obnoxiously as he could. “Even if we thought he was a threat to more than just Captain America’s virtue, there is no location you have that is safer than the Tower. Also, we both know that you don’t have anyone else who can go toe to toe with the Soldier. That’s why you’re here talking to us rather than just trying to kidnap him out from under Rogers. Or. Over Rogers. Whatever. The point is, the only way you’d be able to keep him anywhere is through heavy drugging and restraints. Which, by the way, great way to prove to everyone you’re not Hydra.”
“Where would you even put him?” Clint asked. He was starting to look at pissed as Tony felt. “Because as it turns out, I’ve already deconditioned one Soviet assassin, so I’ve got experience. And from that personal experience, shit doesn’t end well when the murder machine wakes up restrained in a cell. It’s not exactly a trust building exercise.”
Bruce walked over to a window and closed his eyes, his breath slow and even. Natasha’s face had gone frighteningly blank.
“I hate to break this to you dude, but trauma recovery is kinda a thing I spent a lot of time learning about,” Sam interjected calmly. “The best way to help Barnes recover is to put him in an environment he feels safe in and then build on that.”
“Assuming that Fury wants Barnes to recover,” Natasha said blankly.
“Wait. What?” Now it was Sam’s turn for his jaw to drop. Tony noticed that the VA counselor was the only one in the room to look surprised. Everyone else had too much bitter experience to think better of the world.
“Come on, flappy bird. Makes sense, doesn’t it? Hydra crafted the perfect weapon. Strong, deadly, obedient, and functionally immortal once you take cryo freezing into account. What super spy wouldn’t want that in his arsenal? Not to mention that weapon has sentimental value to another ageless super soldier, and, well, what’s not to love.” Tony’s smile turned mean.
“Let’s not go jumping to conclusions,” Fury started.
“Yeah, no need. Bucky Bear is staying with us anyways.” Tony squared up his stance and made sure that his body language was such that he challenged all comers. He was a beta, but he’d never needed biology to back him up.
“I see,” Fury said after a moment. “Well. You give me a call when he starts leaving bodies around.”
Fury saw himself out.
The silence that filled the room after that was weighted.
“He’s right, you know. Barnes will have some kind of trigger words conditioned into him. I did,” Natasha sighed.
Tony winced. “Yeah, yeah. Who knows. Maybe Rogers can fuck him better.”
Sam rolled his eyes and Bruce covered his face with his hand.
“Tony, you know that’s not a thing, right?” Bruce raised an eyebrow at Tony.
Whatever. Six million pornos can’t be wrong.
“Perhaps we should ask the Soldier of Winter himself. Did he not state that he had been working diligently to make things safe for himself and the Captain?” Thor asked, looking both hopeful and thoughtful.
“He might not know. That’s how the triggers work sometimes,” Clint said glumly.
“Either way, we aren’t doing anything with him until he and Cap take a break.” Sam waggled his eyebrows.
“Good call, Wingman. Thanks for showing up. Meeting adjourned.” With that, Tony walked off. He had things to do.
First and foremost was making sure that every Avenger had a picture of Nick Fury’s slack jawed shock on their phone. Tony considered it an early holiday bonus.
To Sam’s surprise, Rogers took the initiative the next morning and called first. Again, the call was put on speaker phone.
“If you guys would keep it quiet, I’d appreciate it. Bucky’s asleep,” he said wearily. The phone receiver could just barely pick up the sound of deep slow breathing nearby.
“Finally wore him out, huh?” Tony leered over his extremely large coffee cup.
Steve actually huffed out a quiet laugh. “The wearing out is mutual. By the way, I appreciate the photo, Tony. We both got a kick out of it.”
“It was my genuine pleasure.”
“Did he leave?” Steve sounded cautious.
“Yeah, he’s gone dude,” Sam replied.
Steve let out a long breath, then another huff of laughter. “Thank you. Thank you all.”
“Are you kidding? We got to troll the hell out of Fury and we just heard you laugh, something I don’t think has ever happened before. Sounds like an all-around win to me,” Clint said happily.
So Sam wasn’t the only one who had a long hard think on Bruce’s comment about suicide rates.
Well. Good. Sam was used to helping people come home from war, but they’d have to work together as a pack to give Steve and Bucky the space to heal.
Maybe that would help some of the others with their own issues, too.
“So. Um. Not to push, but do you think we’ll be seeing you guys any time soon?” Bruce asked tentatively.
Steve hummed for a moment, considering. “We’ll be another few days at least. I want to have a chance to talk with Bucky about what’s going on with him and what he’s been doing for the past several months. He’s…” There was a big sigh. “He’s kind of, well. He doesn’t talk much; seems to be running on instinct most of the time. I’m not sure how much of that was done by Hydra or how much is a reaction to what they did to him.”
“From experience…just take things slow. Don’t push; he’ll tell you when he can,” Bruce advised shyly.
Tony toasted him with his smoothie.
“If you want I can send you some information on trauma recovery?” Sam held his breath.
If he could slip Steve something that might help him while under the disguise of helping out Bucky, Sam would buy himself a cake. Sam hadn’t known Steve for a super long time, but even as new as their friendship was, he could tell that Steve was struggling. Sam didn’t necessarily want to be Steve’s guide through that -- he had enough on his plate to deal with, and he wanted to be Steve’s friend not his therapist -- but he could point Steve in the right direction.
“Yeah. Yeah! That would be great. Thank you, Sam.”
The quiet breathing in the background turned to sharp gasps and a couple of choked out words in Russian.
“Shit. Got to go. I’ll talk to you guys tomorrow.” Click.
“Well that was ominous,” Tony pointed out.
Natasha and Clint both shrugged.
“Eh, he can join Nightmare Club,” Clint said flippantly.
“Nightmare Club?” Tony asked.
“Don’t try to tell me you don’t get them,” Clint answered wryly.
Tony rolled his eyes and went back to his coffee.
“Nightmares are probably the least of what that guy is gonna have to go through,” Sam sighed. “What was he saying?”
“He said, ‘Please, no’,” Natasha replied grimly.
“Do you think it’s possible that Barnes might be in rut?” Bruce asked after a long pause.
Sam mulled it over. He’d never worked with an alpha before; he’d completely forgotten that rut was a concern. Hell, alphas were so rare that they weren’t even allowed in the service anymore. Omegas and betas both had heats, though a beta’s heat was generally far less intense than an omega’s would be.
“Maybe. I don’t know enough about alphas or alpha-omega pairings to be sure. I mean, heats happens sometimes when bonded pairs are united after a long separation, but Steve has got to be on a metric shit-ton of suppressants. Chances are pretty low he’d go into heat,” Sam theorized.
“Barnes, however, was very obviously unsuppressed. Who knows what’s going on there,” Natasha countered in between bites of fruit and yogurt.
“The floors are all scent locked, so it’s not like we’d be able to tell now,” Tony added.
“Assuming we’d even know what we were smelling,” Clint stated. “I’ve met alphas before, but never in rut. They’re usually sequestered away for that.”
“Asgard wouldn’t have been affected by the whole World War decimation of alphas, given that they’re another planet entirely. Their alpha population should still be stable. Thor, any ideas?” Bruce asked.
“I am afraid I will be of little use here, friends,” Thor replied with no little chagrin. “The human’s ways of mating and bonding are not shared with Asgardians. I know less of these ‘heats’ and ‘ruts’ than you do.” He shrugged.
This garnered him stares from all around. Bruce looked like he was on the verge of a hundred questions. Clint shook his head and got himself a new pot of coffee; pot of coffee, because that heathen drank it straight out of the freaking carafe.
“Either way, Steve should know how to handle it. They were bonded after all,” Natasha replied thoughtfully. She popped another blueberry in her mouth.
The subject seemed to be dismissed at that point and much of the rest of breakfast was dedicated to prying out details of Thor’s sex life. When Thor broke out in the epic recital of the Saga of His First Time, Sam got the hell out of there.
Somewhere out there, there was a cake with his name on it.
The next morning did not go to plan.
Steve found himself hustled out of bed, into a shower, and in comfortable clothes before he really knew what was going on. Bucky didn’t even answer him when he asked what was going on, he just herded Steve in the desired direction.
Steve allowed himself to be herded. Whatever it was that Bucky had planned, how bad could it be?
When Steve found himself dragged to the common room for breakfast with the team, he realized the tactical error for what it was. Not that he didn’t know that one day he would have to face his team with the knowledge that they knew exactly everything he and Bucky had been up to for the past several days…Steve had just hoped he could put it off for another week or two.
Bucky, on the other hand, had absolutely no shame. He was pretty clearly thrilled to be with his mate and their pack. All was well in his world. Who cares if the whole damn team was leering at them like a Tijuana Bible come to life?
“Soooo. Cap. How’s it hanging?” Tony greeted salaciously.
Steve counted to five.
“We’re both well this morning, thanks for asking Tony,” Steve replied. “And thanks for emailing that information to me, Sam. I haven’t had a chance to look at it yet, but I will.”
“Anytime, dude. You let me know what else I can do.” Sam smiled.
Silence reigned as everyone watched the mated pair like the most fascinating exhibit as a zoo.
Bucky was completely immune; he happily pushed more food on to Steve’s plate in between bites of his own.
Steve sighed. “Alright, whatever it is you’re all stewing over, out with it.”
“We didn’t expect to see you this morning is all.” Natasha smiled innocently at him.
“We were curious though...”
Here we go.
“…What made you guys decide to join us?” The whole group waited attentively.
“It. Um. It was Bucky’s idea,” Steve stammered.
Groans all around.
“Pay up losers!” Clint crowed.
“No! No, wait. We don’t know why,” Tony interjected. Steve rubbed his hand over his face. His teammates were assholes. “So. Bucky Bear. Why come out of the love nest so soon?”
“Pack. Food.” Bucky looked meaningfully around the table.
Steve felt all full of warm butterflies inside and what he was certain was a dopey smile had begun to creep over his face.
“Huh?” Clint asked in confusion.
“Packs eat together. It’s a sharing resource thing,” Steve smiled.
After World War II, packs with alphas in them were so rare that most of the traditional pack bonding activities had drastically changed. There weren’t any alpha instincts in the mix to accommodate for. The Avengers did things together, but eating wasn’t often the focus of it.
Tony looked intrigued, but shrugged.
“Whatever. Pay up losers,” Clint demanded.
“No chance, Hawkguy. You thought Barnes wanted to threat assess, not play house,” Tony said.
In the absence of other caffeine options, Tony ended up trying to steal Clint’s coffee pot. Unsuccessfully, as Clint just pelted him with berries until Tony gave up and went to the kitchen for his own.
“Who gets the pot if no one wins?” Steve asked. He was torn between annoyance and amusement.
“We should give it to Soldier of Winter, for he outmaneuvered us all,” Thor declared jovially. Money slowly filtered its way towards Steve’s side of the table. Bucky utterly ignored the currency, instead using his time to pilfer another scone from the center of the table and drop it on Steve’s plate.
“Eat.” He poked Steve with one metal finger.
“Buck, you know we don’t have to eat it all, right? There will be more tomorrow.” Steve nibbled at the scone anyways. It was pretty tasty. Besides, Steve would do a great deal to make Bucky happy; eating a little extra didn’t even register as a potential problem.
The look Bucky graced Steve with was one of pity. He rubbed Steve’s head and put another slice of bacon onto Steve’s plate.
“This is almost as good as the phone calls.” Clint snickered.
Steve sighed and looked around the table. A small smile stretched across his face. As irritating as the teasing was, it was all good natured.
His pack was here, shit-talking but supportive. His mate was here, a little unstable, but whole and alive. It wasn't perfect. That was fine. Steve didn't really trust perfect.
It was good, though. Really good.