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But words can wait (until some other day)

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Steve – 1944

 

Steven Rogers
Brooklyn, New York

The Secretary of War desires me to express his deep regret that your mate,
Sergeant James Buchanan Barnes of the 107th, has been reported missing
in action. If further details or other information are received you will be
promptly notified.

Colonel Chester Phillips

 

Steve wanted to burn it – had thought about doing it so many times just to get rid of the evidence of Bucky's disappearance – but it wouldn't have mattered anyway. The words were burned into his brain and he could no more forget them than Bucky. The letter had sat on the table for days after he opened it, ignored save for the couple times he passed by and glanced down to see if maybe the words had changed but he was never so lucky. It stared at him every time he came home from work, every time he got up in the morning, until he had enough and shoved it into the drawer of their small side table. He had no idea what else was in the drawer, couldn't bring himself to open it again after putting the letter inside but couldn't make himself throw it away either.

It was exactly a year ago that he had received the cold and disconnected letter. A year ago that he was sure his heart would stop beating because it was his fault that Bucky was gone. If he had joined, had worked harder to forge his papers to the army, he could have at least been there with his mate in battle. His hands trembled, crumpling the paper slightly in his anger at giving in and reading it again. Steve threw the letter back into the drawer, slamming it shut and knocking over the glass on the table with the force of it.

His mate was still fighting (because no matter what Steve refused to believe he was dead) and he was here doing nothing but drawing up posters for recruitment, rationing, and scrap metal drives. But he couldn't stomach making another one today. Not after being denied by the army yet again. Steve left the broken glass on the floor and trudged into the bedroom, collapsing into bed with a weary sigh even though it was barely past noon.

/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

Bucky – 1943

Bucky couldn't remember the last time he saw sunlight. There were no windows where he had been locked away and as such he couldn't even tell how long he had been here. The members of the 107th had been separated, dragged out in pairs or small groups and by smell he could tell that those that locked up with him were all Alphas. He spent too much time debating whether their upcoming fate or the unknown fate of the Betas would be better so he fought to focus on the men in front of him. They would rescue the others in time.

But for now, it was enough of a drain to try and keep the rest of the regiment calm and controlled. They hadn't slept since the first night they were taken. Any time the group began to drowse, the Hydra soldiers that held them blasted loud sounds into the cells or shone spotlights into their faces. They hadn't eaten and the only water they got was sprayed at them through a hose. It felt like a day since that had last happened, and when Bucky spread his lips in a grimace he felt them crack. He licked at the blood leaking from his chapped lips and counted the number of guards again.

It never went down. There was no rotation, no lessening in the number of guards. The next batch would come in and have their fun keeping the 107th awake, before the old guards left. They had no time to pick at the locks or shake the bars to find weaknesses and stubborn as he was, Bucky found himself forcing back the doubt that they would never escape. He thought it was maybe two days later when the soldiers first began taking the Alphas out one by one.

----------

Bucky screamed again, not bothering to try and hide his tears anymore. “Sargent James Buchanan Barnes 3255...3255...7038...” His words trailed off on a heavy pant. His lungs felt like they had shrunk and couldn't hold as much air, but he tried again. “Sargent James-”

“That's enough of that don't you think?” Zola interrupted in a hatefully gloating tone. “We know who you are and we couldn't be happier that someone of your skill set is enduring all of our tests. You will be a wonderful asset to the team. Just wonderful.” Zola smiled down at him as if Bucky was his favorite child. “You have outlasted all the others, you'll be ready in no time.” Bucky felt a sharp stab through his chest at Zola's words. Had he done this to his whole division? Were they all put through this same torture?

Chances were that all of his friends were dead or nearly there at this rate; he couldn't remember the last time he heard screams other than his own echoing down the corridors. Bucky clenched his teeth against another sob. Most of the men he fought with were Betas and who knows what was done with them. The other Alphas though. If what Zola said was true...

Zola patted his chest, offering Bucky one last smile before moving behind the table to fiddle with machinery that Bucky couldn't see. Bucky heard him mutter something to himself about the readings he found there and flip a few switches, then listened with dread to the whir of the machines starting up as Zola's footsteps faded away.

----------

“You Alphas are so fascinating,” Zola commented offhand while he carefully picked through the vials sitting on the table. “You are every basic instinct all rolled together. You live to fight, to hunt, and to breed. All you care about is proving your strength and breeding every Omega you come across.” His back was turned as he selected the bottles he would be working with so he couldn't see the poisonous glare Bucky sent his way. He was angry. Far angrier than he ever remembered being and, in listening to Zola yet again rattle on about the wonders of Alphas and Omegas, he wondered if what Zola had done was starting to affect him in more ways than he realized. “But then that all gets ruined by everything else. Why would your brain care for morals and conscience when it already has a purpose? Perhaps it is because we do not present until our teenage years?” Zola pulled a syringe out of its case and began carefully measuring the different liquids into it.

“But that is what we are here to fix, no?” he asked, smiling as he walked to Bucky's side. “We are going to fix all that wasted space in your brain and return you back to the instincts you belong to.”

Bucky cursed Zola's name, threatening him with everything he could think of while struggling against his bonds to try and escape yet another injection. But Zola ignored him as he always did and nodded to the man standing behind Bucky who placed electrodes on his head.

He clenched his muscles and jerked his arm to try and break the needle but even Zola, weak as he was, was able to hold him still long enough to administer whatever serum he concocted this time. Zola had barely stepped away before the flip was switched and Bucky was screaming through his electrocution.

----------

Time was difficult to hold onto.

Sometimes he woke up in the lab, sometimes in a cell but he could never really remember how much time had passed between those places. He tried to focus on the people around him to see if they would let any information slip, but too many of them spoke only German and the times he attempted to question any of them he was simply ignored at best.

Zola's hateful face was the one he saw the most. Always taking samples of his blood or injecting him with something else. Bucky's skin felt tight and itchy and his senses were all going haywire. Sometimes the scent of multiple people entering the room made him nauseous, other times everything was so loud that it pressed a persistent headache against his temples. Times like those it was hard to keep thinking about Steve.

Bucky could still picture his face perfectly, but then he would realize he forgot what his favorite food was and had to bite back tears. Steve was probably beside himself with worry and Bucky hated bringing him to this place, even if it was only in his thoughts. But he couldn't help it. Everything hurt but when he thought of his mate he seemed to float away a little. He hoped his last letter had made it through to Steve. He actually had time to write on a day that felt less shitty than the others, so at least he was able to be more cheerful than he usually was.

The next time Zola gave him his electroshock treatment Bucky forgot what color Steve's eyes were.

----------

Bucky still remembered some things. Random things it seemed, and not quite enough for him to really piece together what his brain was trying to tell him. All he could focus on were the whispers in his ear, telling him his mission: use whatever means necessary to eliminate the enemy. His arm itched where they had injected him and Bucky jerked, hand clenching reflexively at his side as the Jeep rolled to a stop. He had too much energy thrumming through him to think about why he didn't want to be there, not on a battlefield, and not with these people. So, when they whispered in his ear once again, he exploded from the back of the Jeep.

The artificial adrenaline they pumped into him made his blood roar in his ears. It drowned out the sounds of the battle happening around him, and the screams of the soldiers he encountered. Bucky had no care as to which side he was attacking. He just needed to get the energy out of him, and his addled brain couldn't come up with any other way.

Bucky slammed into the soldier in front of him, knocking the wind out of him as he fell to the ground. He snatched his rifle, fired it without aiming into the battle around him, and when it was empty turned it back on the soldier and beat him with it. When Bucky heard shuffling and swearing next to him he turned, intent on doing the same to whoever he saw, but then he was caught by wide frightened eyes. The soldier was a skinny little thing and his blue eyes made Bucky jerk. There were a few confusing flashes of memory only made worse when, in his attempt to get away, the soldier's helmet slid back to show his blonde hair.

Snarling, Bucky grabbed the boy's jacket and pulled him around to face him. Bucky stared and stared and stared until his features shifted and Bucky remembered sitting at his bedside through winter, carefully feeding him broth between coughs. Remembered wiping the blood away from his nose after getting caught in yet another fight. The sleep-warm scent of him seemed to come from nowhere and Bucky remembered where he was – remembered that this boy wasn't actually his mate and he needed to get back to him now.

He let go of his jacket, shoved the soldier down roughly as if pushing him away would help with his confusion, and bolted for the trees. Once the Hydra soldiers noticed he was trying to flee, their weapons fired off around him, smashing into the trees and sending bits of bark and wood flying everywhere. He skidded to a stop when a break in the trees led him to a ravine. Bucky peered over the edge, trying to figure out his chances of climbing down, when he heard shouts nearby. He took off running along the ledge instead, but it soon proved to be a mistake.

One of their strange energy pulses hit him in the shoulder. Bucky cried out, the impact twisting his body and forcing him to loose his footing. He barely had time to recognize that something was wrong with his arm before he was tumbling down the rocks. His head cracked against one of them before he finally came to rest on the bottom. His ears were buzzing, his vision swam, and his shoulder felt like it was on fire. His arm was pinned under his body and Bucky whimpered when he realized he couldn't feel it.

He blinked a few times to try to clear his vision, and rolled his head. He grit his teeth against the pain that caused, then saw the river he was laying next to. The sound of it drowned out everything else and for a moment he could think of nothing else but wanting to take a drink. But then another shot ricocheted off a rock just a few feet away and his need to escape overcame his pain and thirst. If he could make it over there, he could get away.

Pushing up with his arm, Bucky tried to roll his body over and get his feet under him. He barely got up to his hands and knees before he collapsed forward, vision going black at the edges and dry heaving at the stabbing pain when he had tried to pull his left arm up. Bucky groaned and breathed deep through his nose, trying to force his body to obey him.

A few small rocks bounced off the wall beside him and splashed into the water. He could hear shouts above him and their lights hurt his eyes as they tried to navigate their way down to him. Bucky's body refused to move for a few precious seconds before he was able to start pulling himself along the ground. He refused to take his eyes off the water, even when his arm caught on a rock and sent his guts twisting again. He sobbed when he finally got his hands into the river; the cold water shocking but he kept pulling. Bucky managed to get his torso in, but he wasn't deep enough. The current had barely started tugging on him before a couple pairs of boots splashed in beside him and started yanking him out. He roared and his thrashing was enough to knock one of them off his feet, but another was quickly there to replace him and this time Bucky couldn't get out of their grip. Sneering down at him, one of the officers yelled a few instructions in German then everything went black when someone knocked him down with the butt of their rifle.

The first time Bucky woke it was to the ear-splitting whir of a saw. He jerked then screamed as it cut deeper into his shoulder. Someone put in a cursory effort to hold him down, but no one seemed to mind that he was awake.

The next time he was still laying on the steel table with bright lights shining down on him. His whole body ached, his skin felt raw and he could hardly breathe. Bucky blinked his eyes a few times to try and clear the haze wrapped around him and looked around the room to get his bearings.

When Bucky turned his heart stopped beating. Tossed carelessly onto another table a few feet away was his arm. He looked at the bloody bandages wrapped around his shoulder then back to his arm again before what happened sunk in. He screamed and kicked, struggling against the straps holding him down and ignoring the pain that radiated throughout his body. When Zola came into view beside him, Bucky spat in his face.

“What did you do to me?!” he yelled, straining to get free so he could attack the man. His throat hurt, and his tongue felt strange and clumsy in his mouth, as if he hadn't talked in years. The battle was coming back to him slowly, and his stomach rolled at the memories of how he brutalized all those men. It was like his brain had been switched off and his body had gone on without it. Bucky remembered doing it but couldn't recall a single thought, not even any he had while trying to escape.

“As I told you,” Zola replied calmly, his tone betrayed by the fact that he kept a careful eye on the straps to ensure they stayed tight. “I simply let your true nature rise. And you were exquisite.” He cocked his head to the side in a sad half-nod. “Up until you tried to run at least. We'll need to make sure that doesn't become a habit. But we have plans for you, Sergeant.” Zola patted Bucky's torn open shoulder and he nearly bit his tongue to hold back a scream of pain. “Such lovely plans.” The man continued to mutter to himself as he walked away, and pulled out a folder that he kept tucked under his arm, rifling through it as he left the room.

There was a group of people huddled over a pile of metal and wires and he tried to focus on them, but the adrenaline in his system was wearing off and he could feel himself crashing after the shock he felt at waking up. His head rolled back to stare at the ceiling and he could see an IV bag hanging above the top of his head. He squinted at the label but couldn't make anything out. “What izzit?” he slurred at the next person who walked by him but they paid him no mind. He wondered if it was the same thing Zola had been giving him all along, or if they had come up with something new. He didn't think he really wanted to know.

----------

The metal arm they fit Bucky with didn't work right away. It was clunky, heavy, and more than once it overheated and burned where it was connected to his skin. Sometimes his nerves rejected it and he couldn't control its movements no matter how much his captors shouted at him. It had been tested over and over again on prisoners and deserters alike until Bucky got used to the tacky feel of blood on him, could wield a weapon with his new left had as well as he had with the old. He knew he had to fight and was too afraid to question why anymore.

/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

Steve – January 12th, 1946

 

Bucky and Steve always sat out on the fire escape together. It had been their favorite spot. They would watch everything happening on the street, holler down at the kids playing baseball to correct their game, and make their plans for the future (both grandiose and practical). But this wasn't their fire escape and Bucky wasn't there with him.

Steve followed the crowd moving from the neighborhood to the heart of the city for the Victory Parade. He didn't particularly want to be there, but his own heartache couldn't keep some small part of him from celebrating the fact that the war was over. Though that didn't keep him from hating every person down there that was walking arm in arm with their loved ones who had managed to return.

Steve knew he could make a lot of noise when he wanted to, and it would only get worse the more he riled himself up. It was harder and harder to keep quiet when the people around him were all clapping and celebrating their victory with loud whooping cheers. How could they smile and laugh when so many were dead or missing? How could they bring all the soldiers back home when there were more of their own who needed help in Europe? Some of the older kids from the street kept glancing at him sidelong when they managed to tear their eyes away from the excitement of the parade. Steve knew they all talked about him, both in worry and for the sake of gossip, but Steve didn't want to deal with it today. So he forced himself to keep his eyes on the route, on the bits of confetti everywhere, and on keeping his heart from climbing up into his throat.

He grabbed the rail in front of him, twisting his hands back and forth as he tried to keep calm. He would have to find new work again. Hopefully enough places had seen what he had done for the war and it wouldn't be too long before he could find something steady again. Steve had made it though half the winter already, but he imagined his luck wouldn't hold out much longer. Steve barely scraped through the previous winters but every year it got harder and harder. The neighbors did what they could, but the loss of Bucky was devastating enough on its own without adding his still-failing health to it. His doctor did what he could, but everyone knew there was no medicine that could help heal the loss of a mate.

His Alpha was gone. His mate and yet the soldiers were back here celebrating. Why didn't they stay to look for him and the other soldiers who went missing? Were they just going to forget about Bucky? Let him be just another name on a list that they pretended to care about? Two and a half years ago he got the telegram telling him of Bucky's disappearance and nothing since then. Not a single one of his letters or inquiries acknowledged. The war was over, but that did nothing to quell his grief and anger.

Steve felt someone softly place their hand on his shoulder but he shook it off. He stood and picked his way less than carefully through the people around him and climbed down off the fire escape. It was several blocks before he managed to find a place where he wasn't surrounded by jovial crowds and ducked into the entrance of an alleyway.

“Dammit, dammit...” He pressed the heels of his hands against his eyes and took a deep breath. A few minutes later he impatiently wiped the tears off his face and straightened back up. He didn't know what to do with himself but knew that right now he couldn't go back to his empty apartment, devoid of Bucky’s scent and comfort. He curled his hands into fists, tucked them deep into his pockets and set himself to wander along the city streets aimlessly.

 

/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

Steve – 1947

 

“How many letters have I sent?” Steve scoffed, not waiting for an answer as he barged into Andrew's apartment. “How many letters in the year since the war was over and I get one answer!” Andrew turned in his chair, a small indulgent smile on his face. This wasn't the first time that Steve had come over unannounced to bemoan the actions (or lack thereof) of the government in the search for his mate. Andrew was lucky. He lost most of his leg during battle, but still had his Claire to come home to after he recovered. They were both betas but his parents had been an Alpha-Omega mated pair so he at least knew vicariously what Steve was going through.

“All these letters, and they have the audacity to come back with this.” Steve snapped the letter tight between his hands and read, tone full of venom. “'We regret the loss of your mate and know how difficult this must be for you; however, we have received no further information on his whereabouts at this time.'” Steve crumpled the letter and threw it across the room.

“As if they care. There's been barely any effort to get any lost soldiers back. At least admit it, don't keep trying to pretend to care.” Steve collapsed back onto the couch, sitting with his eyes closed for a few moments. “How did your doctor's appointment go?” Steve's eyes were far away as he asked, but Andrew momentarily indulged the change of topic. They had met there a few months ago: Andrew in for a follow up on his latest surgery and Steve there because a woman from two floors below him found him sitting on the stairs, out of breath and clutching at his chest. He hadn't meant to eavesdrop, but the doctor and Steve arguing back and forth as he was brought back to an examination room was enough to tell Andrew what his condition was.

“About as good as the last time.” He pushed himself up and Steve held out a hand to help him balance on his way to sit next to him on the couch. “It is what it is at this point. There's no getting better and if anything starts to feel worse I'll just go back in.”

“That's good.” Steve smiled and leaned back into the cushions. They were quiet for a few minutes, though Andrew could see Steve was barely holding back another outburst.

“You know, Steve,” Andrew started hesitantly. “I hate to do this to you when you didn't get any good news back, but I heard back from that French soldier I was in the infirmary with. The one I told you about when we first met?” Steve nodded. “I sent him a letter to see if maybe there was any chance they knew anything over there.” Andrew shrugged. “He doesn't know of any American soldiers still over in his city but he said he'd keep an eye out for me. I know it's a long shot but, I suppose it's something.”

Steve nodded again, laughing a bit to himself before offering his thanks. “It'll be his birthday next month,” he continued, picking at a loose threat on the hem of his shirt. “He'll be thirty this year and probably pissed that Stark hasn't finished his flying car in time for his birthday.”

Andrew waved his hand in the air dismissively. “Eh, he'll have some other new toy out soon. That man never stops working, so he'll have something great by the time Bucky comes back.”

 

/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

Bucky – 1950

 

Bucky stared blankly at the walls. His chest and shoulder ached from the latest upgrade work they put into his arm. They never gave him enough sedative to knock him out, just enough to keep him from struggling and messing up their work. He was still restrained on the table; he hadn't put any effort in trying to get out for years. His thoughts most days were a racing mess, hopping onto the next thing before he could ponder the first. The only thing that gave him any focus were his missions. While on them his mind would clear of anything except for the rush of hunting and defeating whoever crossed his path. But now he was trying to think, trying to make himself focus because the techs talked around him while they worked, always had. It was how he learned that he wasn't going to be staying here anymore – they were sending him to America.

Bucky felt a strange sense of longing when he learned where he was going. His vision blurred, he was so focused on trying to piece together the things he felt that he was forgetting to blink. There was a hollow ache in his chest and he wanted to cry but he didn't know why. It has been ages since he felt anything other than anger and exhaustion.

A trio of heavy footsteps stopped before the door and the soldiers came in, guns pointed at him. The soldiers’ fingers twitched against the triggers as they approached.

“Zola wants the Asset. They're ready to take him now.” Bucky bared his teeth and rumbled a low growl at the tech who approached him. “Make sure he's all the way out. I don't want to be stuck on a plane with that thing if he decides to wake up.” Bucky felt a small thrill at the waver in the man's voice and one of the others stepped forward to help hold down his arm for the injection.

----------

Hydra didn't try to keep things clean. For all their secrecy and hiding, when they made a move they wanted it as hectic as possible. More chaos meant it would be easier for them to take control. In war-torn Europe this was easy, for them to take Bucky silently out of the scene and hide him until his next mission. But America was different. They didn't have battlefields to reclaim, buildings to rebuild. They celebrated the end of the war and moved on.

So when Hydra planned to begin pushing more seriously, the nation's capital was the obvious choice. They would remove a few key politicians from their seats and replace them with Hydra members. And once the Asset was brought in, they would step forward to clean up the mess he left behind. Slowly gain more of the people's trust until they took the Presidency and Congress. It wouldn't be as easy as Europe has been, but they were patient.

A team of scientists was crowded around him when Bucky woke. Zola was inspecting Bucky's arm and explaining the process of connecting it to Bucky to the other men. He jerked his arm up, testing the restraints and made several of them jump.

“Ah he is finally awake, good. We can get started.” Zola turned to grab a folder off the table and held it open in front of Bucky. “Tomorrow this man will be speaking in front of the capital. He must be eliminated. Casualties are not an issue on this mission, understood?” Zola didn't wait for an answer, Bucky hadn't spoken since the first time they had replaced his arm. He explained a few more properties of his serum to the other men as they walked away and Bucky was left in the room alone until they came back for him the next day.

----------

Bucky fought against the pull of his anger but not enough to keep him from completing his mission. He needed the distraction to help him escape. So after killing the senator and a handful of the people who had gathered to watch him speak, Bucky turned and ran. Hydra tried to contain him, but they weren't expecting him to run. The few soldiers he ran into he was able to dispatch with ease.

He didn't understand what direction he was running. He didn't remember making a conscious choice to go the way he was, but he kept following the pull in his gut and once he was out of Hydra's range he hid until nightfall. There wasn't much rest to be had, not when he was still amped up from the serum, but he kept himself calm and waited until he had the cover of night to move. There were less people around then too, fewer chances for him to lose what little control he held onto.

Bucky's face twisted as he got closer to the city he had been drawn to. His heart raced as he moved in deeper, and the focus on finding where he was supposed to be was thankfully enough to keep him from killing anyone in his way. He ignored the way people parted for him as he walked, acting as if they didn't want to be near him even though they barely spared him a second glance. But he was growing impatient, anxious to satisfy his curiosity and hopefully finally feel some quiet around him. He had turned onto a small cramped street when a sudden scent caught him and stopped him in his tracks. He could feel the memories scratching at his brain and he knew that this was what he needed to find.

----------

Steve didn't know what woke him, only that he was suddenly wide awake. The room around him was still dark and he groaned, knowing it was way too early to be up and yet he'd have no chance of getting back to sleep. He tried to settle deeper into the bed anyway and curled his fingers around a corner of Bucky's pillow. His scent had long since faded from it but Steve still liked to pretend he could smell him; it was why he refused to ever use it. Steve could tell how tired he was because he could have sworn the scent was actually in the air. He sighed angrily out his nose, assuming he was having one of those dreams where you thought you woke up but were really still sleeping.

The curtains rustled and Steve frowned. Bucky had always made sure to close the window before bed, even in the summer, and it was a habit that Steve kept alive so the cool breeze on his back made him roll over in confusion. He blinked at the shadows, sitting up slowly when he caught scent of Bucky again. His eyes had adjusted to the darkness enough that he was able to make out the shape of a figure standing against the wall.

Steve's first thought was that someone had broken into the apartment, but his body had no reaction. The two just stared at each other until the man stepped forward and through the man's long hair Steve caught sight of Bucky's profile. His heart clenched painfully and he swung his legs off the bed before he even thought about moving.

Steve's hands shook. He reached for Bucky, half expecting his fingers to pass right through him, and then he would wake up and realize it was all a dream. But instead of dealing with a ghost, Bucky sidestepped along the wall to move closer to the window. Bucky kept a wary eye on Steve and raising his lip in a warning snarl. Steve’s hand closed into a loose fist and he stared, heart beginning to slam against his ribs as more of him hoped that this was actually real. “.....Bucky? Is it....is it really you?” If he could pay attention to anything else right now he would hate the tremor in his voice.

There was no answer, only a flash from Bucky's eyes as he looked between Steve and the window, seeming to assess his possible choices. Steve began to panic. He had no idea what Bucky had been through, but there wasn't any chance he was letting him leave this apartment unless he wanted Steve clinging to his back. Neither one of them moved, for fear of startling the other and as Steve's eyes adjusted better to the darkness he could see blood spattered all over Bucky and the harsh look in his eyes. Now that Steve was paying attention he could smell the blood and the dirt that was caked on Bucky and he knew that whatever happened to him, he wouldn't be able to just get his mate back so easy. Steve took a breath and let it out slowly. He had to convince him to stay. Steve had no clue how he found his way back, but he wasn't going to risk accidentally scaring him away.

“Can you close the window Bucky? It's too cold this time of year, I might get sick.” Bucky jerked and looked Steve over again but didn't move. Steve smiled at him and shuffled a half an inch closer. “Can you close the window and stay with me? It's safe here, I promise,” he said quietly, curling in on himself and making sure to look every inch the vulnerable Omega who needed protecting.

Things fell silent again as Bucky considered. He sniffed the air a few times then reached over to close the window, even remembering to catch it before it slammed against the sill. Steve quietly let out the breath he had been holding. He didn't really know what to do from here (every possible reunion he had imagined for them never went anything like this) but this was still Bucky and Steve needed to take care of him. He felt like turning on the light might upset him, so he kept it off and tried to force his eyes to see clearer.

“Thank you,” Steve said with a soft smile, then beckoned Bucky closer. “Let me get you something to eat, yeah? Are you hungry?”

All Steve had was a bowl of leftover stew and some bread for toast. Maybe a couple eggs, he couldn't remember if he finished them for breakfast or not. He had forgotten to go to the grocery store for several days and wanted to kick himself for not having more. Steve took a step back to try and lead the way to the kitchen when suddenly Bucky was standing toe-to-toe with him. Steve reeled back, but Bucky steadied him with a hand on his nape. Steve shivered all the way down to his toes and felt his body begin to go lax. Bucky scented along his neck now that he was close enough to do so, and let out a pleased-sounding huff before rubbing his face against Steve's. He could feel all sorts of grime rubbing off onto him, but the burst of joy he felt in the center of his chest overshadowed it all. Tears pricked at his eyes as he rubbed back, unknowingly muttering Bucky's name under his breath over and over.

The moment broke, though, when Steve tried to wrap his arms around Bucky. His mate was back across the room as quickly as he moved before, teeth bared in threat. Steve blinked, confused as he looked to Bucky. He made to move towards him but stopped himself with an awkward jerk. He bit down on his sadness and hurt and smiled at him apologetically. All touch had to be initiated by Bucky, got it. Steve could deal with that until Bucky was comfortable around him again.

Steve tried to get food prepared for him again, but was hesitant to leave the room without him. After it became clear Bucky wasn't going anywhere, Steve quickly put the stew in a pot on the stove, checked back in the bedroom, put in a couple pieces of toast, checked back in the bedroom then chugged down a glass of water. He poured the warmed stew back into the bowl and offered it to Bucky who didn't seem to have moved an inch the entire time.

“Come on, eat up,” he encouraged after Bucky made no effort to take the bowl. “It's for you,” he prompted again after another thirty seconds of silence. Steve frowned a bit and placed it on the nightstand, wondering if perhaps Bucky was hesitant to take it from Steve but still nothing. “Would you please eat it?” Steve snapped, pointing to the cooling meal. Bucky just stared back.

“There's nothing wrong with it, come on.” Steve took a mouthful himself just to prove it. Bucky took a small spoonful, as if in retaliation, then handed it to Steve. He narrowed his eyes at Bucky who simply stared back at Steve until Steve took another bite. Steve huffed and moved away when Bucky tried to give him the spoon again.

“No, it's yours. Stop making me eat, Buck. I'm fine.” Steve blinked a few times at himself, frowning a bit with how easily that old argument bubbled up to the surface. But this Bucky was unperturbed, much like how he used to be, and refused to eat anymore unless Steve had some first.

Steve assumed getting cleaned up would be less of a hassle. But Bucky wouldn't go into the small bathroom, nor would he let Steve wipe his face with a washcloth. Steve had no idea how much of this blood actually belonged to Bucky and he was itching to undress him and clean up any wounds he might have.

“You can't be plannin' on just leaving this dirt here.” Steve reached for Bucky's sleeve. “I just want to make sure you're okay,” he continued when Bucky still didn't answer. Instead he snorted and turned away to inspect the bedroom more. Steve didn't miss just how stubborn Bucky could be. (That was a lie, he missed everything.) But he didn't quite want to yell at Bucky after just getting him back. He already felt a bit guilty over practically yelling at him earlier, so he accepted that Bucky would stay dirty, even though he knew years ago his mate would have never gone to bed without at least washing his face. It irked Steve. He always knew Bucky would come back different – who wouldn’t after being in a war – but this Bucky who didn't talk and seemed to be all Alpha instead of the man who was his mate, was a mystery to Steve.

Though Bucky wasn't answering him, Steve couldn't help but talk to him. Eventually he moved back to the bed and sat down on the edge just talking about everything – the things he had done over the past few years, how much he loved and missed Bucky, how worried he was for him. Steve wanted so badly to know what had happened to him, especially after the sun started to come up and Bucky removed his gloves, revealing his metal hand. He hoped he would get answers eventually but he was so overwhelmingly happy to simply be in the same room as Bucky again he couldn't care much for anything else.

----------

Bucky didn't understand how he had known to come back to this place, but after sitting in the small bedroom all night he knew this Omega was his mate. That was his mating scar left on the man's neck even though he didn't remember leaving it. His scent and voice calmed parts of him that he didn't know could be calmed and even though he was still wary, there was no way he was leaving.

He hadn't been able to resist scenting him a few times because of the pleased and prideful feeling it left him with, but he was afraid to touch him for too long. Bucky was afraid to hurt him. The Alpha in him roared with the need to protect but he had only done harm for so long that he didn't want to chance hurting this man. Nor did he believe that Hydra would let him go so easily. It was why he refused to leave his perch at the window. He couldn't see everything, but there was enough to give him some warning while remaining hidden himself. But still they would have to leave.

The Omega fell asleep at some point during the day and Bucky waited until his breaths were slow and even before standing beside him. He touched the mark on his neck with careful fingers, feeling out the different points of the scar and tried to will himself into remembering when he left it. It hit him suddenly that the man's name was Steve and that they met as children. Bucky frowned, trying to chase the memories down but they refused to go any further. He growled in frustration and moved back to the window. He hated this feeling of half-knowing.

A few hours later when he woke up, Steve smiled at Bucky and he didn't feel any fear coming of him. He had to keep his mate safe. It likely wouldn't be long before Hydra tracked him down and Bucky began to feel restless at being in one place for too long. That evening, much to his mate's confusion, he gathered up what they needed and crowded Steve out onto the fire escape.

“Bucky what's going on?” Steve asked as he climbed out, feeling a bit foolish for standing there looking inside the building at Bucky. He also felt foolish for expecting an answer when all Bucky did was continue to usher him down until they were on the street. He paused briefly to select a direction then tugged Steve along beside him.

“You know, this would probably be a lot easier if you told me where we're going,” Steve deadpanned, stepping quickly to keep up with Bucky's pace. The people who had hurt him were still probably after him. Or maybe Bucky had some other reason for dragging him away in the middle of the night; Steve didn't really care since he was with his mate now. Finally, after all these long years, his scent was fresh in his nose; altered, yes, but no less Bucky than it had been all his life. He probably should have tried harder to get an answer out of him, but Steve wasn't as concerned with that right now.

Bucky navigated through the people with surprising ease, eyes darting up to the street signs at every corner before Steve caught on to where they were heading. He tried to dig into his pockets to see how much money he had for the train, but Bucky simply waited at the entryway until a crowd of people went through and Bucky snuck them on. He kept them moving between train cars anytime anyone with a uniform came through and the rode to the end of the line. It wasn't as far as Bucky would have liked, but moving made him feel better.

They followed the general direction the people around them were going and it led them to a neighborhood of small houses. Most had some lights on but they found a house on the street that was completely dark and Bucky broke in through the back to make sure it was empty. Most of the scents were faded, so no one had been here recently and Bucky deemed it safe enough for the night. Once they were both inside and Bucky had drawn the curtains, he grabbed Steve.

“No, no more,” Steve said sharply, already knowing what was coming and trying to turn away to stop it. Bucky tightened his hold a bit to turn Steve back towards him and managed to get them facing each other again. Bucky immediately dipped his face towards Steve's neck. “I said no!” Steve huffed while grabbing at Bucky's face.

Bucky growled and shook his head, trying to dislodge Steve's hands but he managed to keep them pressed against his cheeks. “No more rubbing your dirty face all over me. I'm itchy and filthy and so are you. We are showering now. Then you can scent me, alright?” Bucky had stopped trying to glare Steve down, but when he was unable to get out of Steve's hands, he let go of Steve's waist to grip his wrists and pull them away. Which just led to Steve leaning back to try and escape.

“Dammit Buck!” Steve turned his head to cough after yelling and the sound made Bucky move to touch his face instead. “Stop, I'm fine.” He swatted Bucky's hands away and turned to the hallway. Bucky growled again but Steve was unfazed.

“Quiet down. You're coming with me and I don't want to hear your noise.” Bucky crowded up behind him once they were in the bathroom and Bucky was distracted enough by rubbing his face in Steve's hair that he at least let Steve get the water turned on this time. It wasn't until Steve pulled away to undress that he began to protest again.

“Hey, hey, it's fine.” Steve tried to run soothing fingers through Bucky's hair, but winced when Bucky jerked his head away. “I'm not going anywhere, okay? Come on.” Steve bent down to remove his pants then he slowly reached towards Bucky, always making sure he could see his hands before touching him. Steve was surprised that he was able to get Bucky at least partially undressed this time, but his feet remained stubbornly planted. There were some bruises on his chest and something that looked like a bullet hole in his arm but it seemed well on its way to healing. Steve winced and ran his fingers under one of the bruises.

“Are you okay? I imagine taking you to the hospital is out of the question, but they must have something here.” Steve rummaged through the cabinets and managed to find bandages, and frowned at the state of Bucky's hygiene. He grabbed a washcloth from the linen closet and wet it in the sink to carefully clean the wound. When done he reached over to test the water in the tub and, finding it warm enough, he tried to tug Bucky closer. He didn't manage to get him in, but it wasn't his bathroom so Steve wasn't terribly concerned at leaving a mess. He washed Bucky off as best he could. It was a bit tricky with his hair but Steve quietly coaxed him into letting him get it wet and tried to wash his hair quickly. He kept talking in the hopes it would help keep him calm.

“I missed taking care of you like this,” Steve confessed quietly. “I remember the days when you would come home so tired you could barely stay on your feet.” Steve smiled, apologizing softly after his fingers caught in a snarl. “Then there was that time you spoiled us with that fancy new soap. We stayed in the water so long we stayed wrinkled for a week.” He rinsed Bucky off, draped a towel over his shoulders, and climbed in for his own bath; smiling to himself at the burst of happiness he felt at those memories. It had been so long since he was able to think about the two of them without feeling that hollow ache.

Steve climbed out to dry himself off when Bucky dropped to his knees and buried his nose in the crease of his thigh. Steve's cheeks flushed but he couldn't ignore the interested twitch of his cock as Bucky continued to scent him. He dried off hurriedly and tried to help Bucky finish when he grabbed him by the hips and turned Steve around. He felt Bucky's stubble rasp against his ass but pulled himself away before he could do much else. Bucky, none too pleased at this, stood and stalked forward. Steve led them out of the bathroom backwards, glancing over his shoulder to locate the way to the bedrooms and groaning as his cock started to harden. If this was going where he desperately wanted it to, he needed to be somewhere better than the bathroom counter.

He gasped as slick began to build up and trickle out of him. Bucky's nose twitched before he was all over Steve, rubbing, biting and grinding against him as they stumbled back into the bedroom. Bucky made his intent very clear. Steve, however, could hardly move. He was so overwhelmed by his body responding to his mate he wanted to cry. He hadn't felt himself get slick like this since his first torturous heat after Bucky was taken. His body, perceiving the loss of its mate, hadn't been able to go into heat again.

But now it was as if all those years of waiting rushed back into his body at once. He was hot all over, skin tight as Bucky rubbed his scent all over him. Steve whimpered, grinding shamelessly against Bucky's stomach and nosing at his neck. Bucky growled low in his throat, the sound vibrating through his chest and sending an excited shiver down Steve's spine. It didn't matter how many years they had been separated, he knew what that sound meant.

Pulling away, Bucky grabbed Steve's hips to turn him around and bend him over the bed. Steve managed to get one knee up but Bucky buried his face in Steve's ass before he could climb up any further. Steve collapsed onto his elbows, hips held up only by Bucky's hands. The room was filled with the sloppy sounds of his wet grunts and Steve's whimpers, his bottom lip bitten raw as he tried to hold them back. Bucky licked deeper inside him and Steve flexed his toes against the floor, helping him to push forward and thrust against the air as his cock leaked onto the sheets. He rocked himself back and forth against Bucky's tongue, quiet pleas falling from his lips as he felt his balls draw up. He tried to choke out a warning but then he was coming, cock aching as his balls emptied.

Distantly, he realized Bucky had pulled away but it didn't really register until the head of Bucky's cock pressed in against his hole. Steve was still coming when Bucky bottomed out, fingers digging into his hips as he pulled Steve back against him. “Fuck...fuck, Bucky.” Bucky's name trailed off on a low moan as he began a relentless pace. Steve clawed at the sheets, reaching forward to grab a pillow to bury his face in.

Rough as this was, Steve couldn't help but feel light. Like things has finally fallen into place and a weight had been lifted off his chest, making it easier to breathe than it had been in months. Bucky pushed him further up the bed, and Steve pulled his other leg up underneath him. Bucky's hands came to rest outside of his own and Steve turned his head wanting to see him. He was gorgeous. Hair longer than he'd ever seen it, eyes darker, but still his mate. There was a light sheen of sweat on his face but when the next thrust pushed Bucky's face closer Steve caught a scent of his slick and cursed. Twisting further, he licked at Bucky's mouth and swore again as he came back with the taste of his own slick. He could see more shining around his mouth and chin, some having dripped onto his neck.

“Jesus, Buck.” It was filthy and he loved knowing Bucky hadn't cleaned himself off after opening Steve up. Bucky nosed at the mating bite he had left on Steve's neck when they were seventeen and Steve's head dropped to the side instinctively. He could feel Bucky's knot starting to tug at his rim and he begged with his whole body for it. Opening his mouth wide, Bucky bit down on the scar as he pushed in with a final thrust, coming deep inside Steve as the taste of Steve’s blood flowed over his tongue. There were tears in Steve's eyes as he came on Bucky's knot, but he wasn't feeling any pain. Couldn't when his bond was being reaffirmed so beautifully.

Bucky lapped at Steve's neck, hips grinding forward to get rid of the last of his adrenaline, before he tipped them both over onto their sides. He tucked Steve up right against his front, metal arm under his neck and his flesh arm resting possessively over his stomach. He licked at the drying blood again while pulling the filthy covers over Steve. He wouldn't let either of them up long enough to pull the blankets down, but there was enough slack to cover Steve and keeping his mate warm was all that mattered.

Steve fell asleep easier that night than he had in years.

----------

It was surprisingly easy, Steve thought, being on the run with Bucky. They never stayed in one place for more than a night but they never had too much trouble scrounging up food. A couple times Steve thought that he should probably not be adjusting to this so quickly, that he should be more concerned about being on the run from people he didn't even know, with a mate who hadn't said two words the entire time they were together. But he couldn't bring himself to care. He had Bucky back and it was the only thing that mattered.

Steve still had no idea what Bucky had been through - no idea where the metal arm came from, or what caused his numerous scars. He hated not knowing but he couldn't get any answers from Bucky. He hadn't spoken a single word to Steve no matter how hard he tried to coax one out of him. Bucky still flinched away whenever Steve tried to touch his head and he couldn't imagine what Bucky had gone through to cause such a deep-seated reaction. Some days he wasn't really sure if Bucky remembered him or not. He felt like Bucky was just protecting and feeding him because that was what all Alphas were meant to do for Omegas but other days Bucky's eyes would be so bright as he listened to Steve that he couldn't doubt Bucky was remembering their life along with him. Steve was comforted by the fact that those days seemed to come closer together the more time they were with each other but the hard line of tension never came out of Bucky's muscles. Even sleeping he never seemed to be able to completely relax. Steve was too afraid to chance loosing him again by trying to bring him somewhere. But Steve was happy. Bucky was still his so for now he would hide with Bucky for as long as he needed to.

Their good luck, of course, had to come to an end. Steve wasn't sure what clued Hydra into their location but nearly three months after Bucky showed back up in Steve's life Hydra caught up to them. Steve had just finished eating the food that his mate brought back for him when a half a dozen men broke in through the windows. One of them managed to get a shot off right away, hitting Bucky with some kind of electricity but it held him up for only a few seconds. He ripped the small darts out of his chest and slammed into the man who shot him. Jerking the gun out of his hands, Bucky slammed the butt into his face and dropped him on the floor.

He turned to another solider immediately, but Steve could see him favoring his right arm and feared that the shock might have affected him more than Bucky was showing. Thankfully the effects didn't last long though and he had no problem fighting, uncaring of the fact that he was outnumbered. Bucky was ruthless. It worked in their favor that Hydra wanted Bucky alive, while Bucky would fight to the death to keep from going back with them. Steve picked up the knife off his plate and slashed it at the soldier closest to him. They tussled for a moment but then the soldier was able to get behind Steve, wrapping an arm around his throat and tilting back enough to pull Steve onto his toes. He yelped and clawed at the man's arm, kicking back against his shins but it didn't do any good. Wiggling around, Steve ducked his chin enough to let him pull up on his arm and bite him hard on the inside of his elbow. Cursing, the man punched hard into Steve's kidney and threw him to the ground. But before he could pull up his gun to shoot, Bucky grabbed his face with his metal hand and slammed him back against the wall. He knocked his head back several times, screaming 'no' louder with each hit. Blood spattered stark against the wall but Steve couldn't look away even as he coughed and rubbed at his throat.

The man finally fell limp in Bucky's grip, so he threw his body against the last remaining solider who was struggling to his feet. Bucky leaped on top of him, snarling deep before the crack of the soldier's neck snapping echoed through the room. Uncaring of the blood on his hands, Bucky moved to Steve, concern etched in his features.

“M'okay Buck.” Steve coughed again and Bucky grunted out his name while feeling him over for any injuries. Steve opened his mouth to try and reassure him again but Bucky was leaning forward, burying his face in his neck and inhaling deep. “Mine. Mine,” he grunted, flipping Steve onto his stomach and laying on top of him. Steve couldn't help the thrill that ran down his spine at that. Bucky hadn't spoke at all until just now and the deep timbre of it made him want to roll over and show his belly.

There were six dead bodies scattered around them and Steve could scarcely bring himself to care. Bucky was rutting against his ass even as he worked to pull Steve's clothes out of the way and he had barely gotten them down his thighs before trying to push inside him. Bucky propped himself up on one hand and used the other to spread Steve's ass. He fucked his hips forward again and Steve arched his back as far as he could to help line them up. Steve's slick spread along Bucky's dick and Steve was whimpering below him already.

Finally – finally – they lined up right and Bucky bottomed out inside him in one hard thrust. Steve didn't know if it was from the fight, but Bucky's knot felt like it was almost fully swollen already and tugged wonderfully on his rim every time Bucky pulled back. Steve's breath came out in loud pants as he squirmed beneath Bucky, moaning for more. He begged for Bucky's knot; fingers scrabbling at the floor for something to hold onto.

“Please...please, Bucky. Come on.” And as quickly as it started, it was over. Bucky bit down hard on the nape of Steve's neck as he shoved his knot as deep as he could into his mate. The pulses of come filling him up were comforting, helping him begin to relax after almost dying in the fight. Bucky rubbed over Steve's stomach as he settled in above him, only rocking his hips slightly to keep the pressure from getting to be too much for either one of them.

Breathing quietly now, they both turned to survey the room. There probably wouldn't be much to take from them, but Steve would go through all their pockets before they left. With how many there were, it was clear that they had somehow managed to track them rather than finding them by chance so he started thinking about where they could go. Clearly they hadn't been careful enough, probably stayed too close to home. He racked his brains trying to come up with a place where they would never think to look. He turned towards Bucky, nudging his jaw with his nose, and asked him. Bucky didn't answer, but his eyes darted side to side as he thought and Steve knew he would have decided their next stop within the next minute.

“Maybe somewhere south...” Steve muttered, earning himself a light nudge to his temple. Over the next few minutes, as Bucky's knot went down, he had his own plans figured out and was debating how to argue his case when Bucky tugged back to see if he could pull free yet. Steve groaned and moved up onto his knees when Bucky did. Bucky pet at Steve's hips and stomach, apologizing for trying to pull away too early. Humming happily to himself, Steve pushed them up the rest of the way so he could reach back and grab at Bucky's nape. Bucky nipped at his neck but allowed Steve to guide them together into a kiss. Bucky's chest rumbled against Steve's back

“Let's go somewhere warm. The last thing we need to worry about is my health so hopefully it'll be easier down there.”

Bucky huffed and bit at Steve's nape, using it as a distraction for when he pulled his knot free. Steve hissed at the sting and the empty feeling that always hurt the most right after a knotting. But he straightened his clothes without complaint and followed Bucky around the room, rifling through the men's pockets for anything that they might find useful where Bucky only collected the weapons he wanted to carry.

After Bucky checked around the back of the house to be sure no one else was there waiting for them, he pulled Steve out the back door. He held up the handful of bills he had collected from the men and smiled. “I think this will give us a good head start.” Steve took Bucky's hand and led the way back to the train station.