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Nothing sweeter

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As an Alpha, Bucky doesn't have much to offer. Sure, he can absolutely kill your enemies, storm heavily guarded cities, and if particularly motivated, singlehandedly destroy said cities, but he doesn't have much else going for him. Alphas, after all, are a dime a dozen, and there's really nothing that could make Bucky stand out from the rest of his gender. On the surface, after all, without a good family name, a job, or even a particularly good grasp on his mental stability, Bucky's just like every other knothead with a proficiency in violence.

Usually, this wouldn't bother him.

It hasn't, in all the time he's been alive. All that's ever been required of him was the ability to hit and get hit back. Throw in the serum, his extensive combat experience, and his Alpha biology's inclination towards strength, speed, and healing, and Bucky is the pinnacle of Alpha perfection.

Except for the aforementioned good name, job, and emotional competency.

And if one were to pointedly ignore how incredibly old fashioned and how horribly barbarian Bucky's strengths as an Alpha are in the current landscape of the world, one could argue that those social expectations are arbitrary at best, things that can be changed and improved. But Bucky's been the latter for so long, he wouldn't even know where to start if he wanted to. And he does for what is likely, the first time in a century.

Of course, it being such a monumental event, it only stands to reason that the person that triggered such a long-dormant wanting, is someone truly special.

And the Omega in question is. Absolutely.

But he is also completely and utterly unattainable.

With Bucky's luck, it's to be expected; the natural state of the world.

He can't be entirely blamed for it, though. Bucky will challenge anyone to really see Tony Stark, and not be gone stupid over him.

Sure, like all Omegas, Tony's got that doe-eyed allure and pouting charm; enhanced by long lashes, the biggest brown eyes, and the most distracting mouth. But he's got a tongue sharp enough to cut anyone down, regardless of who they are. As an Omega, it's traditionally frowned upon for Tony to scorn the expected etiquette with mock simpering, and be so unapologetic with his opinions, especially, and more so, because of his public presence. Though, if anything else, Tony's existence has bolstered the Omega Equal Rights movement since the day he fought to attend MIT at seventeen.

While some would take it as a challenge to bring an Omega like Tony, with his good name and his obviously substantial dowry, to heel, all Bucky wants is to tear the throat out of anyone who would try.

Tony's got a mind that won't stop reaching -- higher and higher for new ideas, new possibilities -- and the thought that Tony wouldn't be allowed to do that because of anyone makes Bucky's teeth grind.

However, it's laughable to think Tony would let such a thing happen, or that he'd even need protecting in the first place. His personal arsenal of Iron Man armor, his occasionally caustic wit, and his constantly fabricating fingers aside, Tony does not suffer fools, or offenses, lightly.

Not even if their name is Steven Grant Rogers.

To be fair, Steve hadn't exactly approached the topic of Tony's secondary gender with any kind of tact.

Bucky knows that if Peggy, having been an Omega herself, had heard the shit Steve had said -- so what if you're flustered? Jesus, Steve, you don't say that shit to an Omega. Or frankly, anyone. You're damn lucky your Ma's not here -- would've rightly shot at Steve again, and not just because Tony happened to be her godson.

Talk of finding an Alpha who would even want an Omega like Tony, in Steve's words (and the answer being Bucky), only made Tony giggle.

Almost all his life, Tony's been surrounded by Alphas, the best that society could offer, and the only people that had gotten close to him had been Virginia Potts and James Rhodes, and neither of them had become Tony's mate. On his own, Tony nurtured friendships with Alphas as easily as he would've with any other gender and got into flings in any direction his dial spun that particular day if the media was to be believed, but none ever stuck. For all Steve's ill-advised remarks, not even the ones Tony had rejected had stopped trying to impress him, if Steve's terrible attempts to unstick his foot from down his throat were any indication.

It seemed, for the most part, that Tony was content to be without a mate at all.

Bucky respects it. He does. It's exactly why Tony is completely unattainable to him, and to anyone.

(And that's not even putting into account the bunker incident two years before, though Tony's insisted to him, at least, that there weren't any hard feelings on his end if they could call the whole thing square.)

Tony is a strong, independent Omega, and Bucky refuses to be another knothead getting in his way. Bucky's perfectly content to admire and pine from a distance.

It's an oath Bucky has to remind himself of when he hears the unmistakable sound of someone moaning followed by a mutter that indicates it's Tony, and freezing on the spot. Having been just passing by, on his way to a mission brief, Bucky doesn't even get to talk himself down before he's looking around the corner into the common kitchen. It's not like Bucky is the one intruding anyway, Tony is in Bucky's section of the Compound.

Fortunately, there is no compromising position to be had, just Tony stuffing his face with a family-sized pudding cup that Bucky had set aside as a reward for himself for getting through the week.

Tony doesn't usually eat sweet foods, at least that's what Bucky assumed from the times they've shared meals together. Tony usually prefers something heartier, more savory: pasta and creamy soups and full-bodied stews. But Tony's really going to town with the pudding, Bucky thinks, not even upset that his reward is being decimated before his very eyes which is when Tony realizes he's standing there, staring at him with a goofy smile like he couldn't be more in love if he tried.

When Bucky realizes that Tony is looking at him, he wills his expression to clear and straightens from where he'd been creeping around the door frame. They blink at each other from across the room before Tony remembers himself, flashes an adorable grin, and waves hello with the spoon in his hand. "Hey puddin', want some puddin?"

Bucky scratches at the back of his neck, embarrassed to be caught staring -- he's a goddamn assassin -- and chuckles. "I'm alright, you enjoy that."

"Thanks," Tony chirps, "I will." And then gets right back into it.

Bucky shakes his head, amused and overwhelmingly fond, and continues on his way.

This is not the first time Bucky walks in on Tony inhaling something sweet over the next few days -- its brownies and cake and ice-cream and an ice-cream cake and -- it's endearing to find Tony happily munching at all hours of the day. It's quite a change in pace from when the Omega had proclaimed coffee a food group.

Though Tony is very particular about where the food comes from which everyone discovers when somehow Tony manages to eat the Compound out of all its sweets. Even the ones Thor hides in his room.

Despite his displeasure, however, Tony absolutely refuses to touch the growing pile of gifts that have started to arrive, the sight of them alone making him huffy.

Sam jokes that at least they wouldn't be in the blast zone of Tony's craving fueled wrath, going on a mission as they were. Not that it would be for long, Tony's unsatisfied craving that is, with Steve telling everyone that he'd take care of it. And with Rhodes, Ms. Potts, and literally any other Alpha that Tony's actually on good terms with, not currently at the Compound, no one's there to tell Steve otherwise.

Bucky grounds his teeth to suppress the growl, and if Sam notices the way Bucky is a little more aggressive than he usually is on a mission, he wisely says nothing.

With the job done a few hours later, Bucky's on his way to the transport location in order to head home when he passes a bakery, already open and churning out goods in the small hours of the morning. In the display window: a tray of chocolate delight.

It's probably too late to get it. Steve would've bought out every sweet shop in the area to try and impress Tony; it wouldn't be the first time Steve overcompensated to make things up to him. Tony might have had enough of sweet things as it is. But before Bucky knows it, he's paying for the dessert and continuing on his way to the transport location.

After boarding the plane, Bucky straps in with his cargo safely on his lap and does a shitty job of ignoring Sam's raised brow.

Bucky defends, "It's for the road."

"Uh-huh," is his unconvinced reply, the unsubtle wiggle of Sam's brows.

Sniffing, Bucky pointedly looks out of the window. Sam's a Beta, he probably thinks -- whatever, it's not like that.

Bucky shares his part of the Compound with people usually not there, like Thor and the Guardians. He thinks it's partly by design given that he wasn't entirely stable after being iced in Wakanda, and an unstable Alpha sharing territory never goes over well which is also how he'd been spared from being placed in the same wing as Steve. Still, just in case anyone gets any ideas, he attaches a sticky note onto the container: touch it, and I will hunt you down which is as much as a deterrent that is allowed in a building filled with superpowered people and secret agents.

He's just showered the dirt, blood, and sweat off from the mission, and changed into a pair of sweats and a vest when there's an urgent knock on his bedroom door. Still trying to dry his hair with a towel in one hand, he answers the door with the other and finds Tony on the other side, his expression serious.

Hackles raised, Bucky recalls that there hadn't been any warnings over the comms, and Friday hadn't given any covert signals for danger. A quick glance over Tony's person and posture give away nothing, but he doesn't look hurt either. Out of reflex, Bucky tries to scent Tony, but of course, with Tony's suppressants, Bucky doesn't get anything from that either.

Left with no choice, Bucky asks casually, in case they're being watched by someone that isn't Friday, "Something wrong?"

"You have something sweet and I want it," Tony answers with a petulant frown, an attitude of I want it so it's going to be mine, I'm just stating my intentions to be polite.

Stiffening in surprise for all of two seconds, Bucky snorts. "Yeah, okay." He leaves the towel he was using to dry his hair on his shoulder, and nods for Tony to lead the way. Instead, Tony sniffs, opting to let Bucky lead and sticking close as if to make sure Bucky won't try and run away, possibly with the coveted chocolate delight, and Bucky has to suppress his besotted smile as they enter the kitchen. Tony slackens the distance between them a bit, choosing to wait on the stool across the counter; echoing the same position they'd been in the first time Bucky walked in on him earlier that week.

Opening the fridge and retrieving the dessert, Bucky grabs a spoon from the drawer and slides both to Tony.

For a moment, the Omega stares. Then says suspiciously, "All of it?"

He raises a brow.

In elaboration, Tony waves the sticky note at him. "You're gonna write this note and let me have all of it?"

It's for you, Bucky doesn't say. Instead goes, "I saw you put away a family-size pudding cup meant for an Alpha Super Soldier, figure you can handle a tray."

Tony considers him, then inclines his head in grudging consent, and gets at it, like he hasn't eaten anything at all since he announced he was on the warpath; a kingdom for something sweet.

Bucky wonders, but is far more distracted by the settled feeling of successfully providing for the Omega, the noises of approval Tony makes sending a rush of endorphins to Bucky's head. It's a call and response, and Bucky answers back with a purr.

Tony stills, peering up at Bucky from below his lashes.

With a flush, the Alpha clears his throat and backs out of the room. "Sorry. I know you -- Yeah, I'll just let you get on with it."

Continuing to blink at him as he swallows a mouthful of the dessert, Tony continues to watch him go, unblinking, curious.

And being the object of Tony's curiosity is. Overwhelming.

Alphas are naturally inclined to present, to prove they're the best, in whatever way their personality and biology allow,  and Bucky knows he is not particularly blessed in that regard. At least not in any way that wouldn't require a little bit of murder and destruction. Bucky can't exactly weave poetry and science together or summon a lightning storm like Thor, he can't draw portraits of Tony like Steve, and Bucky doesn't have the money to lavish Tony in gifts like literally every other Alpha who's ever been interested in him.

Hell, Bucky doesn't even have the funds to get an offering for Tony when his heat starts. Because that's actually happening.

It's why Steve had been trying so hard to impress him, as of late, why other Alphas have been periodically showing up at the Compound with gifts, and why Tony's been hiding out at Bucky's little corner of the Compound because honestly, it would take an Alpha with serious balls to willingly walk into the territory of the Winter Soldier.

Bucky should have realized it sooner, but the last time Tony had been in heat, Bucky had been under observation in Bruce's playroom and hadn't had the wherewithal to notice something that wasn't a threat to him.

Which was incredibly careless of him, actually, because if Bucky's learned anything since actually getting to know Tony, it's that the man is a Threat.

Not even in the obvious ways -- being an Omega of high stature and regard in the community, or in the fact that Tony's brain is routinely classified as a weapon of its own, but because for whatever reason, Tony is Always Around Bucky.

Sometimes it's Tony appearing in the kitchen, nursing a coffee and looking tired but bright-eyed after another successful all-nighter in the workshop. Bucky convinces him to have actual food and not just coffee beans and a worrying amount of sugar, and then Tony walks him to the training area after, winks, and tells Bucky to "go easy on the other kids".

Other times Tony will find him during the day, and before Bucky knows it, they're in the workshop. Either Tony has something exciting for Bucky to see or a new device Tony wants him to test, or Tony's at his wits end because Dum-E needs attention and he has "so much paperwork I could die" and Bucky ends up distracting the bot with games of fetch and a bedtime story: "The Little Engine That Could is his favorite, read it with the voices," Tony had sternly instructed to Bucky's serious nod.

And increasingly more often, though less subtly than the other times, Tony sits with Bucky whether they're having team meals, meetings or just decompressing with something on TV.

It makes something dormant purr in his chest that Tony would choose to be around him in the days leading up to his heat. Omegas generally do that with Alphas they feel safe with, and that alone is honor enough. Throw in all the ways Bucky is being allowed to provide and help Tony in whatever way he can, makes his throat ache with the happy growls he suppresses.

The only thing missing from their exchanges is the contact.

Oh, Tony's plenty physically affectionate, he's all hand pats and hugs and hip checks and cuddles on the couch because he pouted at Bucky once and Bucky is Weak; that's not the problem. The problem is, the dumb animal portion of Bucky's brain is searching for Tony, and because of Tony's suppressants, all Bucky gets when he inhales is his own scent. It would be distressing if Tony wasn't always so close at hand, though Bucky knows it won't be for long.

Once Tony's heat is over, his hormones will level out and he'll stop wanting Bucky around as much, and if that thought isn't depressing enough, Bucky still has no offering to give him for his heat.

It's not a compulsory thing, and Tony certainly doesn't need it. But. Bucky had been raised with the idea that Omegas liked that sort of thing. That it helped. And Bucky wants to help.

He isn't the only one, of course.

Steve, ever optimistic, and expression hardening and determined to find Tony with Bucky (again), brings Tony some fancy necklace he'd gotten made: A replica of Steve's shield on a pendant. Bucky remembers Steve showing it off yesterday, going on about how the inner ring was made of white diamonds. Probably hoping he'd be able to shame Bucky out of spending time with Tony knowing he couldn't compare.

Bucky's shameless enough not to give a shit, though he holds onto the hope that Tony will toss Steve's offering in his face.

He doesn't.

Even with their rocky relationship, Tony isn't rude enough to turn Steve away, but Bucky knows the offerings of other Alphas have been in the same vein; all icy cold necklaces made of precious stone and glimmering gold to drape around Tony's neck, an homage to his Omega nature to comfort him in his heat, and an acceptance of a claim they have tried to stake.

Though, Bucky wonders, "Do you wear them at all when you're in heat, does it actually help?"

"No," Tony snorts. "Then again, it's only supposed to if I'm attached to the person that gave it to me." Then, "Not that I ever wear any of the offerings, even if no one ever sees. I can wear my own necklaces," because of course, he could, Tony could afford his own cold comforts, Bucky thinks with a chuckle that he almost chokes on when Tony snuggles against his side and sighs.

The cuddling is relatively new, and while Bucky can't pick up Tony's scent, he does feel the Omega's warmth and it's enough. It's comforting, feels like pack, like mate. Bucky could drown in the longing expanding in his chest, his desire for scent sated like a trickle of water down his throat with the smell of Tony's shampoo in his nose.

Tony pats his chest, scratching his fingers absently on the material of Bucky's sweater, and nuzzles in until he's comfortably beneath Bucky's chin.

Bucky doesn't know when he falls asleep, only that he does, and when he wakes, it's to a warmth that spreads like honey -- slow and sticky. Blinking languidly at the room, dark, save for the panels of sunlight starting to streak through the windows as dawn breaks, Bucky remembers the weight in his arms, and smells -- he smells --

Withdrawing from Tony, Bucky searches the Omega's sleep rumpled expression and breathes.

Tony smells like spun sugar, like sunshine and fresh air. It's delicious.

"Hey, hey," Bucky urges, shaking Tony away when he tries to slip back into sleep, stubbornly cuddling back into Bucky's chest. "C'mon, sweet thing, we should get you to your room." When Tony just grumbles, mumbling something unintelligible as he continues his attempts to burrow into Bucky's chest. Shaking his head fondly, the Alpha decides to take him there himself.

Lifting Tony easily into a bridal carry, Friday is kind enough to light the way to Tony's quarters. It's some distance from Bucky's corner of the Compound to Tony's, but Bucky doesn't mind, breathing in as much as Tony's scent as can be allowed before it's shut away again.

Steve and Sam, returned from a morning jog, watch him pass. Though neither says anything, Steve's unhappiness is sharp in his nose, and Bucky mutes it with more of Tony's scent.

Surprisingly enough, Friday lets Bucky into Tony's quarters and directs him to Tony's nest.

Carefully, Bucky extracts Tony from around him, feeling the near stinging absence of him in the cold of the room. Bucky distracts himself, delaying the inevitable, "Friday, does he have what he needs? Should I get him something before I go?"

"Boss is prepared, everything is taken care of," she assures.

Bucky nods, tucking Tony in to ensure he's warm enough until his heat starts in earnest and makes it unbearable.

Blearily, Tony blinks at him. For a moment Tony seems to be processing their change in location, then, "You took me to my nest." With a happy sigh and a nuzzle against the wall of his nest, "My hero."

Chuckling, Bucky murmurs, "Get some rest, darlin', I'll see you when it's over."

"Wait," Tony says, a little more alert than before, "you're not staying?"

Bucky swallows the sudden dryness in his throat. " Was I...supposed to?"

With furrowed brows, looking vaguely distressed, Tony says, "You've been taking care of me before this started, I thought you wanted to."

"I do," Bucky blurts, in light of Tony's whimpers. "I didn't never asked. I just...I wanted to help you."

Growing displeased, Tony narrows his eyes. "Because I'm an Omega."

"Because you're you."

Then, quiet and entreating, "Will you stay then?"

And even though Bucky does want to, he shakes his head. "I can't...not if it's just for this heat. Not if it's temporary." He flashes Tony a reassuring, self-deprecating smile.

Tony blinks at him again, surprised and blushing. It makes the sunshine in his scent bloom like a flower. "You like me that much?"

Too late to deny it now, Bucky nods, and says, "It's why you should think about it...I don't want to ask you now whether you like me too, and take advantage of you in your situation."

Tony says nothing to that, just continues to watch him with an assessing expression. Feeling awkward, Bucky smiles once more and makes to go, but Tony stops him again. Quietly, he asks, "May I have an offering, Alpha?"

There are none in the room, but Bucky thinks the offerings of the other Alphas are outside, he could --

"No," Tony says, gently, "yours, if you want to give it to me, that is."

Bucky's expression falls because he doesn't have any, and Tony's face falls because he thinks Bucky doesn't want to, but that's -- Remembering with a start the dog tags around his neck, Bucky brightens and pulls it over his head. He'd gotten it back from the museum. The life that was his, the life that was stolen; the life Tony helped give back by letting him come home to the United States.

Tony accepts it, not with his hand but with an incline of his head like an Olympian accepting his gold.

Bucky's heart stutters and then stumbles when Tony reaches up to keep Bucky where he is, and lifts something from his own neck to transfer it over Bucky's; an exchange. Bucky doesn't see what it is, not right away because then Tony nuzzles his neck, and Bucky returns the gesture against his hair.

"You should go," Tony says softly.

Bucky nods, nudging their foreheads together and smiling real soft. "I'll see you soon, sweet thing." He's delighted to find that at that, Tony blushes brightly.

When a few moments later, Bucky runs into Sam and Steve again; Steve is quick to retreat, Bucky just barely dodging the shoulder Steve was going to ram into him as he walked past, but Sam, however, stays behind to smirk and say, "About damn time, he's been marked with your scent for like a week."

And oh, oh god, Bucky forgot he could do that. He'd forgotten that while Tony wore suppressants and hid his scent, Bucky, as an Alpha, didn't. No wonder Tony thought --

At his mortified expression, Sam snickers, patting him on the arm in comforting amusement before he catches sight of something, tilts his head and asks, "Hey, what's that?"

Remembering that Tony had given him something, Bucky examines the chain, surprised to find a miniature arc reactor; engraved around it the phrase: Proof that Tony Stark has a heart. Heat floods Bucky's face.

Sam whistles, and with another pat on the shoulder, says with a wiggle of his brows. "Am I imaging things, or did you just get marked by an Omega?"

"We're not talking about it," Bucky decides, hurriedly; dizzy with the implications, and possibly all the endorphins his body has ever produced rushing to his head at once.

"You're not talking about it," Sam snorts. "I, on the other hand, will never shut up."

"Even though Steve --"

With a shit-eating grin, Sam assures, "Especially because of Steve."