Steve wakes up after what should have been a perfectly normal evening to a burly lumberjack drooling into his collarbone. He lifts his head cautiously, wincing and raising his palm to cover the bandage on his neck when the bite underneath flares into pain with the movement, and stares down at the man who made the bandage necessary.
He’d been hoping that the surreal confusion of last night was due to hunger, sleep deprivation, and blood loss, but now he’s very well fed and very well rested and yet the very large man lying on top of him like the world’s most muscular weighted blanket, wearing nothing but a pair of red buffalo plaid boxers, is still stubbornly real and just as baffling as he had been the night before.
The bite on his neck is already healed, which seems a little unfair.
Steve got turned during the last Irish famine, and he’s been merrily trucking along since, everything more or less as expected until now. The pale, undead part of vampirism was pretty much as advertised, and it’s not like he didn’t know about the dietary requirements in advance. His allergy to sunlight wasn’t really news either, but it disappeared when his Sire had gotten staked anyway, so he’s been able to wander around pretty freely and meet people in social situations and, well. Bite them. Folks are usually into it or don’t notice, but when they do notice, it follows a predictable pattern of yell, flail, and run that gives Steve plenty of time to apologize and vanish into the night (a vampiric specialty).
Nobody’s ever bitten him back.
And this nice lumberjack is extremely warm and Steve would be fine staying here, comfortable under the covers despite the itch of his neck knitting back together, except he’s never ever taken any of his hookups back to his apartment where he lives.
Steve is a responsible sort, he likes to think; he takes less than even the blood bank would, and never drips on anyone’s shirt. He certainly hadn’t planned to accidentally lure anyone to his vampiric third-floor lair last night. They’d been in the alley behind the club, the music almost tolerable once it was muffled by brick walls, and Steve had taken his time kissing his chosen, ah, donor for the evening. The man had been the biggest guy in the club, if not by height than by breadth, and when it comes to who can handle a little blood loss, volume counts. Enthusiastic, too, returning Steve’s smile readily and following Steve out the back doors after a couple minutes of mostly gestured conversation, and touching him eagerly, sliding hot hands under his shirt and rubbing over his back like he was trying to warm Steve up. It was sweet. He was sweet, right up until Steve carefully detached his fangs and licked over the punctures to close them and the man had smiled up at him, huge and joyful with what Steve had thought was the feeding haze, and then faster than even Steve could blink he’d cupped the side of Steve’s face and bitten down in a perfect mirror of the mark Steve left on him.
It was probably hypocritical to be so shocked. Maybe he should have felt threatened, or offended, but the man was so happy about it, and sort of caressing Steve’s neck and then his own with a kind of radiant joy that left Steve feeling like somehow he was the one who was out of step. With his head still swimming from the blood high, weirdly stronger than it had been with anyone he’d picked up before, Steve had retreated to the safety of his home only mildly concerned that the man was following him step for step. It had been easier to collapse into bed and shove his second pillow vaguely in the guy’s direction than try to figure out what had happened and why he was there.
He doesn’t have the excuse of pseudo-drunkenness now. He’s woken up first, but the man is still here, and now Steve has to figure out what to do about it.
His first instinct is to sneak out of the apartment before the man wakes up and then move to a new country, but he’s been in New York several decades now and only just found a place with really fresh endives, so instead he lies very still and rubs the tender skin of his throat, elbow tucked in so he doesn’t jostle his unexpected guest, who’s taking up two thirds of the bed without even trying. Part of what’s making him feel off-balance is that Steve is no longer used to situations where he feels svelte, as it were. While health issues and a famine don’t really make for a strong stature, he had gained a lot of height and bulk pretty soon after being turned. That bulk doesn’t seem as imposing now; his personal heated duvet has his arms wrapped around Steve’s chest and even when Steve, fascinated, flexes a little, the lumberjack’s biceps are still… impressive, in comparison. He loses a minute or two staring at the man’s shoulders out of academic curiosity, just to see if they match.
Eventually his useless brain stops prompting him to change his name and flee to Canada and instead coughs up the suggestion of calling Natasha. Steve seizes on this plan like a liferaft and gingerly detaches from the beef slab trying to cuddle him, which takes five minutes and involves stuffing his own pillow into the man’s arms so he’ll grab that instead. He finds his own pants slung over the dresser, fishes his phone out of a pocket, and cranks the volume all the way down before dialing.
Steve has lived a long time, but that’s nothing comparable to the breadth of Natasha’s experience. She hurtles through existence like there are checkpoints she needs to hit re: felonies. Steve hasn’t ever aimed for the quiet life, but Natasha had blown into his address book like a hurricane during the Troubles in 1954 and has remained there like a banked storm ever since. Currently she owes him one for hiding a griffin egg in his cold room, so she’ll at least take his call.
“It’s before noon,” Natasha answers. “Lyft is a thing if you need a ride before you conk out.”
Steve doesn’t quite know how to tl:dr; his current situation, so he just sort of scans his new lumberjack acquaintance from shaggy rumpled head to charmingly crooked toe, and hopes that Natasha will Just Get It. It’s not as far fetched as it sounds. Steve has known Natasha for six decades and he’s only mostly sure she’s not telepathic.
“Unless my very good friend Steve has already passed out and you went with emergency contact one, in which case his passcode is seven six two - ”
“Really? You’d just give out my passcode like that?” Steve says, keeping his voice down. Vocal control: so easy when you only need to breathe to talk.
“I am a busy woman and also currently staring down a demon.”
“If I look away I give up dominance, Steve. Why are you up this early?”
Steve looks at the mostly naked man snoring on his bed and tries to weigh the urgency of his situation versus Natasha’s demon staring. “I’m not distracting you?”
Natasha scoffs. “I can stare and talk at the same time. If you had trouble getting your ‘vitamin B’ last night, we can’t help you. I used Clint’s blood for the demon summoning ritual and he’s upstairs with a juice box.”
“No, that’s not the problem.” Steve tilts his head and feels his bones settle into place. He feels… good. Awake. Normally this time of day he’d be packed full of cotton wool and ready to roll over for a few more hours’ sleep. Instead he feels downright peppy. “I ate earlier, but there was. A complication. I have a… someone… in my bed.”
Natasha waits for a second like Steve will somehow become more helpful. Giving up on using his words, he snaps a picture and sends it to her.
“Oh, you found a werewolf.”
“How do you know he’s a werewolf?” Steve asks, double-taking at the apparent werewolf wrapped around his second best pillow like he maybe missed some fangs or claws or pointed ears.
“Auras,” Natasha says, which is her vague excuse for most things. Why are we buying banana jello shots? Auras. Where did Clint get that khaki shirt? Auras. How are we gonna break into that bank? Why are we gonna break into that bank? Auras.
Steve frowns. The werewolf looks pretty human to him, if you upgraded the standard model to ‘firefighter’, scaled it up by half a foot, packed on even more bulk, and added twice as much fuzzy soft body hair as most men cultivate these days.
Okay, no, nevermind. He can see it.
“What’s he doing in your bed?” Natasha asks, her tone shifting from casual interrogation to target spotted.
“I don’t know! Look, I bit him, right, and then this guy bites me back and - ” Steve waves a hand silently and tries to put into words what it had been like, the giggly buzz of it as he stumbled along home, clinging to the lumberjack’s shirt and fluttering apart at the seams as his body lit up from the inside out. The guy’s blood hit him like gin had before he got turned, when his lightweight body would fizz into giddy drunkenness after two shots.
Steve’s stomach flips thinking about it and he catches himself rubbing his free hand over his forearm, feeling the lingering sensitivity prickling just under his skin. A sudden memory resurfaces: nipping at the lumberjack’s neck as they waited at the crosswalk, the man laughing and holding him up by the armpits until the light changed, and then Steve pouncing on him again once they were inside the apartment for a final nightcap despite already being more satisfied than he’d been in decades. No wonder he feels like he’s been rolling around in a thundercloud. “We sort of... carried each other home. Here, I mean.”
“Interesting,” Natasha says. “Hey, quick question, how much have we talked about werewolves?”
“Neat. And you didn’t meet any in Europe while you were kicking around out there?”
“Not that I know of.”
Natasha pauses a moment, possibly staring down the demon she summoned, possibly adding notes to her Steve Is An Idiot file. “And you bit him on the neck like you usually do? Sort of scented him up first and then bit right where the shoulder meets the neck?”
“Yes!” Steve says, because he’d bitten Natasha once because she’d asked him to and he’d felt woozy and high the rest of the day. His memories are blurry but he knows the afternoon had included him and Clint swing dancing poorly while Natasha took a three hour bath in the living room. (Natasha’s mammoth living room clawfoot copper tub is another thing that she explains with “auras.”)
“Okay, so. What happened is, you just proposed,” Natasha says. “And he accepted.”
The last of Steve’s buzz flattens out like week-old Prosecco. “Proposed?”
“That’s generally how neck biting works for moon-oriented creatures.”
“What?” Steve asks, because sometimes Natasha lets slip something about how the axis of magic works when she is perhaps not supposed to. And by “lets slip” Steve means “purposefully dangles a tidbit of forbidden knowledge” because witches have their own hobbies.
“What?” Natasha replies. “You said he bit you, right? I mean bit you bit you, not just a hickie. If you bit him and then he didn’t bite back but slept with you anyway then I’m sorry, your new boyfriend is a cad.”
“No, he bit me bit me,” Steve says, feeling defensive of the complete stranger drooling on his pillows. “I had to make a bandage out of a napkin and some cling wrap.”
“Then it was reciprocated, lucky you! So you’re kinda married now, all you need is the ceremony.”
“Basically married. Permanently engaged anyway. Weres have their own deal.” Natasha sounds much, much too casual about Steve’s rapidly expanding personal hell. “So you better wake your blushing bride and tell him the happy news: that it was an accident and you had no idea what you were doing.”
“I,” Steve says, strangled. “I can’t do that!”
“He thought I was proposing! And he accepted!”
“Wow, maybe he’s just as dumb as you are,” Natasha says thoughtfully.
“I can’t just promise him a ring, take him home, drink from him three times in a row and then wake him up the next morning to say oops, just kidding!” Steve casts around, looking at his wreck of an apartment. He doesn’t usually bring people inside, so he doesn’t… there’s clothes everywhere. The apron he wore when he was doing lasagna bites last week is hanging off the bathroom doorknob from when he hadn’t bothered to toss it all the way into the hamper. It’s covered in marinara sauce and parmesan. “I don’t even have any good champagne!”
“Okay wow,” Natasha says. “You know what? Why don’t you handle this your way and call me back in, oh, let’s say a week.”
“Natasha - ”
“Don’t forget to invite me to the wedding,” she says sweetly, and hangs up.
Steve stares at his phone. This is what they mean, he thinks numbly, by spine chilling. He’d always thought it was just a metaphor. The wedding. The wedding! This guy was willing to accept a marriage proposal after fifteen minutes of flirty eye contact: he’s probably not interested in a long engagement. And it’s April, which means all of the good venues are booked for five months solid. What is he going to do.
Well, besides make Natasha his… best crone? Witch of honor? Something that forces her to buy a dress in a color and hold the thorniest roses he can track down and oh god, flowers.
Maybe his - Steve looks at the snoring lumberjack on his bed and thinks fiancé, because that’s what he is, Steve has a fiancé now and no venue and no color scheme and no menu, Jesus Christ - but maybe his fiancé has a place in mind. Family in the area. Do werewolves have big families? Is that just a stereotype? Steve lunges for his laptop.
Ten minutes later, he has thirty-seven tabs open. Nine tabs are local outdoor wedding venues, fourteen are threads on werewolf culture on the more reliable supernatural forums, three are recipes for blood sausage, which Steve has just learned is a traditional post-proposal breakfast for werewolf engagements, and the rest are all Pinterests. Steve hates Pinterest, but he’s the idiot who proposed marriage without so much as a mood board, so he’s going to have to suck it up and deal.
He’s elbow deep in innards when his fiancé finally wakes up with a long, languorous stretch and a soft snort. Steve doesn’t stop mixing the pork shoulder with blood and parsley but he does look up and stare. He’d settled for pork blood, because none of the forums had said what kind of blood, which Steve feels should be the most important factor, but he is on a timeline and his bucher is very understanding and accommodating even when Steve bursts through the back door in last night’s eyeliner and just shouts “BLOOD” at the top of his lungs. Granted he’s done that before, but usually not twice in the same six months. He’ll need to give his butcher a few of her favorite pecan tarts once everything settles down.
He left his bedroom door open so his werewolf fiancé would be able to see him and not think Steve was some sort of rake who got somebody in the family way and then took a train out west (did this count as the family way? It felt like it did). Steve’s mother is long dead but she wouldn’t have stood for anything of the sort, and Steve isn’t going to disturb her Eternal Rest again if he can help it. It took forever for her spirit to settle back down after the last time Steve asked her for advice, and it hadn’t even been good advice. As it turned out, asking an Irishwoman from the 1800s ‘what should I do with my eternal life to do you proud’ got you the kind of answer that a vampire living in 21st century New York couldn’t really use. He’d given up around the time he realized he had no clue how current farming practices even worked, much less how to explain them to someone who thought a steel plow was a fine invention, but a little too expensive.
Ma had given him an earful about asking for advice and not taking it after that. At least she’d been pleased to hear about women’s suffrage and refrigeration.
There’s a shuffle and a muted thump from Steve’s bedroom. “In here,” he calls, mixing the sausage slurry in a pot. He’ll need to freeze everything for an hour, so he hopes a traditional brunch will do in lieu of a breakfast. At least he has string to tie off the casings, he isn’t an animal - wait, is that offensive? Is thinking that was offensive offensive? Fuck -
“Hey.” His fiancé shuffles into the doorway, shoving a mass of fluffy hair out of his face and scratching at the stubble around his chin as he blinks at Steve. He’d stripped off his pants and shirt to spend all night bear hugging Steve, and apparently feels no need to put them back on. Steve’s bite is a happy little scar right along his neckline. Steve feels an inane need to reapply his teeth. It’s all the sunshine, he thinks frantically; he’s not used to it and it’s making him want to lick the warm glow off of the lumberjack’s shoulders, which is both not possible and deeply tempting.
“I uh.” Steve gestures to the casing and slurry. “I got the herbs and fresh pork, but it needs to set first.”
His fiancé’s dozy eyes open a little wider and he looks interestedly at the carnage in the kitchen. “Blood sausage?”
“Pork. It’s all they had in stock, um, I hope that that’s - ”
“My Gran made blood sausage for my Papa back in the day.” Steve’s fiancé’s face gets warm and fond as he smiles, no sharp edges to him anywhere, and his voice is still a little husky with sleep. Steve leans into the counter, fingers clawing at the meat he’s tearing bare handed. “Hitch your star wedding turning a little traditional, huh?”
Steve swallows. “I’m Steve,” he says instead of apologizing for… well, his first instinct is to apologize that he didn’t have the blood sausage ready to go, and his second instinct is apologize for getting married at all, and both of those are very cart-horse situations so instead he just wants to know his very nice lumberjack’s name. Since they’re getting married and all. He needs to have something to put on the invitations. Is this a good time to worry about the last name situation? Because he’s had his last name for a very long time and - no. No, he can put that on the angst shelf for later.
“Call me Bucky,” Steve’s fiancé says, dimpled chin in hand and staring round-eyed down at Steve like there’s nobody else in the world.
“Nice to meet you,” he says weakly, trying to drown out the shrieking in his head that’s looping between werewolves shouldn’t be allowed to have eyelashes like Bambi, it’s false advertising and you PROPOSED before TELLING HIM your NAME. “So uh. Bucky. What do you do?”
“I’m a nurse. I mostly work in the NICU. With the babies,” he says, offhand like it’s not the most endearing thing in the world.
He’s a nurse working mostly with the babies! Steve’s brain shrieks at him. In the body of a lumberjack firefighter with blood that makes me hear violins! “I’m a cafe,” he blurts. “I mean I own one! A cafe. That’s what I do, I work there. At the cafe. Fuck.”
“The Cafe Fuck?” Bucky says, looking - charmed? Steve is sure hoping for charmed.
“Yeah! I mean - no. It’s just called Captain Coffee.” He winces. A hundred years and he hasn’t gotten any better at talking to built brunets. It sure isn’t any easier with his hands covered in pig viscera. “Honestly, it might as well be called Cafe Fuck.”
Bucky’s eyes get even rounder, now in concern. “Is business bad?”
“No, it’s - great, actually,” Steve has to admit. “People love the… mascot. Which I had to make, because people kept asking who Captain Coffee was and why it was called that if there was no Captain Coffee and - anyway. There’s a mascot now,” Steve says depressively. “We make little - designs in the lattes.” His hands make a vague cuplike shape in the air, like Bucky might somehow not know what a fucking latte is. Captain Americano is by far the customer favorite. Neither Steve nor Ayo and her team of baristas need the stencil anymore. He’s pretty sure he could do the design in his sleep. And probably has, on shifts that run til noon. “Faces and things.”
“Why is it called Captain Coffee?” Bucky asks.
“Because I was a captain and it was supposed to say ‘Captain’s Coffee’ but the signmaker forgot the S but did have the apostrophe for some reason but by the time they got the S delivered the apostrophe had fallen off,” Steve mutters. He’s not not over it. “And by then everybody was calling it Captain Coffee and asking who the captain was and I was tired of explaining. So.”
“You were a captain?” Bucky says, installing himself still very much bare-chested on the stool across the island. Steve’s eyes stick on the scar on Bucky’s neck and can’t move away. “Like on a ship?”
“In the Army,” Steve says, jerking his eyes up. Are you allowed to bite more than the once with engagement bites? Lord in heaven he hopes you’re allowed to bite more than once. He - oh god, if he has to keep going out to feed, is Bucky gonna think he’s cheating?
He’s absolutely gonna think Steve’s cheating.
What if Steve bites another werewolf by accident.
Steve is not ready to become a polygamist. He’s gonna have to pick up a second career robbing blood banks.
As Steve is dazedly contemplating this abrupt change to his schedule, Bucky scoots his stool closer to reach out and put his hand on Steve’s forearm. “We don’t have to talk about it,” he says, face worried and kind. He - oh god, he thinks Steve is traumatized by his time in the Army and is standing here staring at nothing because he’s got shell shock.
“I have an extra toothbrush,” Steve says because his hands are still full of meat and his mouth is watering and he will never finish this blood sausage at this rate. “And a shower.”
Bucky ruffles his hair a little and stretches, “Good call. If you don’t mind bringing work home, I’d love a coffee.”
Steve nods and then Bucky stands there looking at him and then they’re two idiots standing in a too bright kitchen with Steve’s hands covered in pork and parsley, before Bucky leans over and kisses his cheek. “Draw whatever you want on it,” Bucky says before he wanders off to find the bathroom.
Bucky is stripping the wrapper off the extra toothbrush when his bundled jeans buzz noisily against the stone countertop. He brought his clothes into the bathroom to put back on after he’s washed up, since Steve kept staring at his bare chest and distracting someone who’s making sausage is a good way to accidentally get more blood in the mix than intended. When he turns his jeans upside-down his phone slides out of his pocket and into the sink.
It’s just going to be Becca sending him another did you die? You died, didn’t you, text because he’s been too busy meeting the love of his life and getting engaged to respond to her last selfie.
His phone buzzes again.
no for serious, it’s honestly kind of been a while
if I’m making jokes about this and your body is actually stuffed in a dumpster somewhere you’re going to scar me for life
I met someone last night
we’re getting married :)
His phone rings thirty seconds later.
“Have you been caught up in some kind of supernatural trafficking ring?” Becca says in lieu of hello. “Are you being held against your will? If you are, just say you’re fine and I should stop worrying.”
“But I am fine,” Bucky says, still riding high enough on the incipient matrimony that he can forgive Becca her negativity and paranoia. “You should stop worrying.” He can hear the dopey smile in his own voice. “His name is Steve and he’s wonderful.”
“Ohh boy,” Becca says. She doesn’t sound particularly thrilled for him. “Alright. This is fine. Just hold tight. Can you describe where you are? Laugh if you’re still in the city.”
“He didn’t kidnap me,” Bucky says, indignant on Steve’s behalf. “He made me blood sausage! Blood sausage, Becca. With anise. And I already caught him planning our first full moon.”
“Of course you caught him planning your first full moon. They always plan your first full moon. Even my middle school boyfriend Adam let me catch him planning our first full moon, and that plan consisted of ‘maybe buy her a candy bar’.” Becca says. “Did this plan include ‘murder him while he lies around in a digestive torpor’?”
“No, but mine sure did,” Becca admits. “His ‘plan’ was to get me a candy bar.”
“Please sort out your crazy before Steve learns what he’s marrying into,” Bucky says, as acerbically as he can manage when he’s still full of the gumdrops and roses and beefsteak feelings brought on by his engagement, and hangs up.
His engagement. Moon and stars, he’s engaged. He presses his fingers to the scar on his neck and closes his eyes. The memory is rosy-tinted and sparkling at the edges from that first moment he’d felt canines dig into his throat. His shock had given way to disbelief and then a rush of slow-dawning delight. He’d known right then that the beautiful stranger who’d enticed him out of the bar had felt the same sense of instant connection Bucky did. It wasn’t just Bucky getting carried away by the exuberance of his new-found freedom in the city away from family, finally. No, it was a sign. It was destiny. Becca made fun of him for reading every book in the Moonstruck Love series until the spines fell apart but there Bucky was, pinned to a wall by the most handsome man he'd ever seen, who was Bucky's true mate probably and even smelled like pie. Those books are fucking documentaries.
Bucky turns on the shower, which helpfully drowns out his still-buzzing phone, and starts getting ready for his first full day with his new fiancé.
After the most amazing brunch of his or anyone else’s life, and several giddy hours of “getting to know your newfound other half” type conversation, Bucky eventually goes home because even true love can’t induce him to wear the same club-reeking clothes for the rest of his life. And Steve had seemed a bit antsy after their meal, so he probably needed a good run. City life gets rough, Bucky knows, what with not being able to let the inner wolf out much, and Steve’s job sounds stressful, even though his heartbeat never showed it and he was cool as anything when he described the high-pressure chaos of pulling a last-minute catering job together, which was very sexy. It’s going to be so fun when they can take a trip out to the family range and really race together.
Bucky scrubs glitter out of his chest hair in a happy haze, imagining Steve’s wolf shape, which must be graceful and lithe, and wonders if he should start waxing. The men on the Moonstruck Love covers are always bare-chested, but Bucky’s favorite uncle has chest hair long enough to braid. Maybe he should aim for somewhere in the middle.
He’s changing into clean sweats when his phone vibrates. He sighs before he looks down, but it’s not Becca. She must still be organizing the rest of the pack for a Skype intervention.
Does anyone in your family have any allergies?
What do you think of ivory cardstock and royal blue ink for the invitations?
This is Steve, by the way.
I got your number from your phone while you were sleeping.
Sorry if that’s creepy.
The five texts arrive one after another in the space of thirty seconds. Bucky smiles down at his phone, absurdly charmed and also incredibly relieved. He can’t believe they were so enraptured they forgot to exchange numbers, thereby almost recreating the exact plot of Miss You in Manhattan, which is deeply moving but involves a little too much moping on the subway for his taste. He saves Steve’s number with what’s probably a slightly excessive amount of moon and heart and sparkle emojis.
uncle marc’s partner is allergic to tree nuts
ivory and royal blue sounds great :)
<3 Steve <3
No tree nuts, got it.
How do you feel about serif fonts?
Would you like to come over for lunch tomorrow, too? I’ll make bouillabaisse.
I’ll be there <3 <3 <3
There’s a fifteen second pause before Steve sends back three hearts, blue instead of the yellow ones Bucky sent. Bucky presses the phone to his neck, rubbing the smooth glass over the still unfamiliar ridge of his new scar, the newly-healed skin magnifying the experience of texture.
He pulls it away when his phone buzzes again, but it’s just Becca, so he puts it on silent before the texts from concerned cousins start to crescendo in earnest. They can talk at the wedding, if they can get a word in edgewise over the aunties and uncles.
Wedding planning is easier than Bucky expected, probably because Steve does most of it. He seems really knowledgeable about things like claw-friendly wedding favors and the many ways table settings are affected by traditional pack dynamics, which honestly Bucky has no clue about, as Great-Grandma Myrtle points out to him about twice a month. Bucky gets presented with a lot of moments of Steve going “A, B or C?” and thrusting some papers or swatches or individual flowers at him and then whisking it all away again when Bucky bemusedly points at one or another.
It’s really romantic. Nobody’s ever paid so much attention to Bucky’s preferences before. When he was little, there were always five or six pups at a time tangling around feet at whichever house the kids washed up in when they got hungry, so they were generally treated more or less as a whole, and when he stood out it had always been because of his size.
Shit, Steve is even smaller than he is. Taller, but sleek. Everyone in Bucky’s entire extended family has always and without exception given him concerned looks and pushed food on him like he’s still going to be growing now, at full adulthood, if they just cram enough red meat down his maw. It’s given him maybe a weirder relationship with food than is normal for a werewolf. But Steve is also little. So he’s not making food for Bucky because he’s worried about feeding up the runt of the litter, he’s doing it because of love at first sight.
Bucky gladly eats everything Steve puts in front of him, and it makes Steve smile every time.
He and Steve see each other every day. Bucky would be happy to move into Steve’s apartment and crawl into his bed and keep them both there for a week, but Steve has been so traditional with everything so far that Bucky’s not surprised he’s waiting until after the actual ceremony to take that step.
“Is your family interested in whether or not the nuptial stone is moon-drenched?” Steve asks, setting a mug of tea down beside where Bucky is fending off four different relatives who still use AOL instant messenger to harangue him for details about the new fiancé. Werewolf lifespans are great, but it sure makes for some bizarre applications of technology. “I know they’ll never know, but if it’s important…”
“No one is going to wonder if the stone was left out in the moonlight for a week unless it starts to grow mold, babe.” Bucky takes the tea and just holds it, luxuriating in the attention. “But if it’s important to you, I can take care of it. Hey, I’ll even mention it to my most gossipy uncle, to make sure everyone knows and you get points for it.”
“It’s not about the points,” Steve protests, and leans in to scent Bucky’s hair like Bucky is the last kebab on the buffet tray.
He’s asking about moon-drenching the nuptial stone, gotta go, Bucky types, because it is absolutely about points, then snaps his laptop closed and tosses it onto the armchair in order to grab a double fistful of Steve’s shirt and drag him down onto the couch with him. Steve may be waiting for the wedding night to actually lose the clothes entirely, but he sure is happy to get half undressed and cuddle Bucky’s brains out.
There may be a little nibbling at mating scars involved. Bucky thinks it’s so charming he might internally combust, how Steve always asks beforehand and gets sloe-eyed and dopey afterwards, rumbling something like a lion’s growl deep in his chest and rubbing his face against the scar for the rest of the evening.
And Steve blushes so easily all night afterwards, so tactile and adoring. It’s no hardship to wait.
Sometimes Steve feels guilty about living in blood-drenched carnal sin with Bucky, biting him as often as he does without even having a ring to show for it, but not bad enough to actually stop when Bucky pulls him down on top of him with that smile. And anyway Bucky never shows any of the signs of anemia that would bring Steve to a hard stop. Steve will make liver for dinner again, just in case. He doesn’t actually need to feed this often, but Bucky gets so loose and relaxed when Steve drinks from him, dragging Steve’s head down to tuck under his chin and wrapping him up affectionately after while they talk softly until Bucky has to go home for the night, that Steve can’t help but want to keep their evening nibble routine going, even though they haven’t done the ceremony yet.
Everything he’s read about werewolves say the romantic structures aren’t very inhibited, though. So maybe the family won’t mind.
God, hopefully they won’t ask.
Steve is only inviting three guests to the wedding, none of them family as far as Bucky can tell. Bucky hasn’t asked outright. Talking about his past makes Steve visibly depressed, and that together with the way the bite Bucky left on Steve’s neck took two weeks to fully scar over convinces Bucky that Steve doesn’t really have a pack right now. In book three of the Moonstruck Love series, Xavier had succumbed to Lone Wolf Sickness after being cast out, and he’d been pale and slow to heal until he and Vanessa had come together on the night of the full moon and - anyway, Steve is also pretty pale, and he’s definitely healing too slowly to be healthy, although he’s still faster than Bucky and almost as strong.
Bucky doesn’t think any less of Steve for being on his own. He’d probably gotten Dramatically Ejected from his pack of origin after Protesting an Injustice. That sounds like a very Steve thing to have happened. Steve still gets worked up about the 1954 midterm elections; Bucky has no trouble imagining a long-running family rift that’s led to Steve on his own in New York.
That’s fine. Bucky has more than enough family for them both. The closer they get to the wedding, the more convinced Bucky is that they’re all going to love Steve as much as he does.
Steve is going to spontaneously combust on his own wedding day, and it’s not going to be thanks to the beautifully clear sky over the state park pavilion they’re renting for the occasion - he hasn’t had any severe reactions to sunlight in decades - it’s going to be from stress alone.
He handled most of the catering, because of course he did, and the flowers, because of course he did, and hand lettered every place setting, because of course he did, and refused every effort anyone in his undead life made at helping him, because of course he did.
The sole exception he made was for Bucky, who one night took Steve’s face in both hands five strategic seconds after being bitten, when Steve was high and in love and hearing string quartets, and said, “Sweetheart. Let me handle the suits and rings for you. At least.” And Steve was besotted and, well, blood drunk, so he said yes before he could figure out why his overclocked future self strung tight with vampiric adrenaline might say no later.
Luckily, Bucky has an excellent sense of Steve’s style after only a few months, and ‘knew someone,’ because Bucky seems to have a family member who does or lives almost anything anywhere Steve could come up with. Outside of the city limits and with plenty of room to run around howling, of course, which is why Steve has never run into a werewolf before as it turns out. Steve sticks pretty close to packed urban centers. It’s a relief to think that he probably never came close to biting any other werewolf, because if he had then he wouldn’t have met Bucky, but it’s retroactively terrifying to think that if Bucky had never resisted werewolf convention and braved the sensory overload of the city, then he wouldn’t have met Bucky.
In any event, Bucky came through on both suits and rings spectacularly, and Steve had been enthusiastic with his praise, and then Bucky had been enthusiastic in receiving it, and…
Well. It’s probably just as well Bucky’s werewolf relatives rarely make the trip into town despite keeping in constant contact across eighteen or so technology options. They would probably smell the blood from the front doorstep.
Steve’s mind comes to a hard stop.
Will they be able to smell it on Steve?
Steve is right in the middle of dredging duck breasts with orange-molasses glaze, and manfully resists the urge to go shower, immediately, with oven cleaner.
Family is so important to Bucky. With one thing or another, mostly to do with Steve planning a wedding in just a few months without his business going under and spending every last remaining second of free time falling in love with his fiancé, Steve hasn’t met any of Bucky’s family yet. This is his first impression. It has to be good.
God, they’re letting the baby of the family marry a vampire. It has to be perfect.
Steve sets the duck aside for Kamala to finish in the broiler before the reception and wipes his hands. He needs to clean up and get moving.
And shower with bleach, seriously.
Bucky and Steve are meeting Bucky’s mom and his sister Becca at the venue ahead of time. Half of the pile of relatives will be ridiculously early, Bucky has assured Steve, and the other half will just be very early. Apparently werewolves set aside the entire day for a wedding and show up far ahead to get the party started as soon as possible.
Which means Steve has to have everything impeccable starting right now immediately. He is vibrating out of his skin.
“Hey.” Bucky stops him rearranging the lilies for the sixth time and cups the back of his neck and pulls him down to rest his head on Bucky’s shoulder. “Sweetheart. They’re gonna love you.”
“Nngghhh,” Steve says, but he manages not to eviscerate any table settings before he hears the car pull into the parking lot outside.
Bucky perks up like… well, like a dog on point, and then bounds out the door and down the steps and Steve wishes he could see himself in the mirror because what if he isn’t up to standard and then two women are getting out of the car, and.
And wow. Wow. Steve stares. Bucky is big - a few inches shorter than Steve, but with arms that regularly tear seams and thighs he could crush coconuts between. Steve had mentally noted ‘werewolves: almost ridiculously large’ in the new mental file he’d created when they met and had nodded along knowingly whenever his research had referenced it.
But Bucky’s family. Well. Steve works very hard not to gape as his soon-to-be mother- and sister-in-law get out of the car. They are each easily seven feet tall and look like they floss with elevator cables.
He is going to die. Again.
Bucky is getting married.
Better yet, Bucky is getting married to Steve.
He barrels into Becca and is immediately enveloped in an enormous hug, which is the only kind werewolves give, generally. He didn’t realize he could be even happier, but seeing family again for the first time in months lifts him that little bit higher, and even he can tell he reeks of it - satisfaction and joy and how much he loves Steve, not just love at first sight anymore, this man is perfect, and Becca and Ma are going to adore Steve and feed him and tuck him into their family and Steve is going to be so happy too.
Becca pauses in her hug and pulls back, brow furrowed, to look at him a little funny. She’s probably about to tease him over the whole perfect bliss thing, so he cuts her off and drags her up the steps.
“Becca,” he says as she stumbles to a hard stop in front of the absolute love of his life. Bucky totally gets it - Steve’s sheer unadulterated beauty can catch you funny sometimes. She smells fully shocked now, though, which is weird. Maybe she just hadn’t really believed him until she got here? Well, that’ll teach her. “This is Steve. Steve, this is my sister Becca.”
Becca looks at Steve.
Steve looks at Becca.
“Wow,” Becca manages after a moment. “Huh. You sure are… Steve.”
“Yep.” Steve’s making that constipated face he does whenever he has a big fight brewing in his head but for the sake of civilians and/or customers is actually holding it in. Bucky looks back and forth between the two of them, his stomach sinking as he wonders what could possibly be going wrong already.
“Bit him first thing,” Becca says slowly, cocking her head the way she always does when a difficult problem finally resolves into sense. She puts her hands on her hips and looks Steve up and down, which is completely unnecessary, since Bucky has definitely texted her enough pictures. She’s seen that shoulder-to-waist ratio before. “No wonder. Okay. Well, hope you don’t mind fur in the punch.”
Steve goes from ‘banked anger’ to ‘relieved’ and then right through ‘insulted’. He ends up settling on ‘indignant’. “I have provided a cover,” he huffs.
“Hey, Ma,” Becca says over her shoulder, not taking her eyes off Steve. Her scent has eased down from imminent nuclear threat level, but she’s definitely still alert. “Come meet Steve.”
“Oh, it’s so good to finally meet our new son-in-fur,” his ma gushes, bustling up with four heavily-engineered boxes of food. “Bucky, look at you! I’ve been so worried you’d be wasting away out here in the city but you look wonderful! Still let’s get some food into you, darling, I brought some snacks. How you’re standing all these people tucked in so close, gracious, I can smell everyone who has been here in the past week! Why, there was even a vam…”
Winnifred Barnes pauses, sniffs, and frowns. She turns to Steve for the first time and actually does a real-life triple-take. “Oh!” She says, tension skyrocketing again. Astonishment and horror billow off her like an essential oil diffuser gone rogue. “Hello! Steve. I didn’t…” She trails off, glancing over at Becca. Becca gives her a wide-eyed rictus of a grin and gestures in a way Bucky can’t parse.
“If you’ll excuse us,” Steve interrupts, smooth but tense, and grabs Bucky by the arm to pull him out of earshot. Which, everyone being werewolves, means going right out the back door of the venue and across the street.
“Did you even tell your family about me?” Steve hisses when they’re far enough away. Now Steve is acting weird, and if he was more anxious than Bucky had ever smelled before, he’s through the roof now.
Bucky stares. “Are you kidding me? Becca blocked me on FaceSpace because I literally never shut up about you. Look,” he says, unlocking his phone and scrolling through texts.
If Bucky had any shame in him at all, he would probably be a little embarrassed that every text to his own sister over the last two months was some variation of “look who I got isn’t he hot and perfect,” or “hey guess what sweet and amazing thing my mate did TODAY,” mixed in with stealthy photos of Steve’s arms while he kneads bread.
Steve looks a little mollified as Bucky shows him day after day of constant public adoration, but then he suddenly snatches the phone out of Bucky’s hands and squints at a series of texts. Slowly, he turns his face back to Bucky. “You told your family,” Steve says, “that I’m a werewolf.”
Steve, wild eyed, throws one hand out to gesture meaningfully in the direction of the wedding venue. “You didn’t think that eventually,” he manages, “they would find out?”
“Well yeah,” Bucky says, confused. “But I didn’t wanna keep ‘em in suspense. They’d think I was dating a human, since they didn’t know of any other werewolves living in the city. They’d decide I’d had a breakdown and married a mortal like Uncle Marc, I’d come home to an intervention.”
Steve, for the first time since Bucky has known him, has gone perfectly, almost unnervingly, still.
“Babe, I know weddings stress everybody out, but you’ve done everything you could possibly do, and it’s gonna be fine,” Bucky offers. He takes his phone from Steve’s limp hands and chafes the cold fingers comfortingly. “I wonder what had Ma so worked up though,” Bucky muses, looking back at where more cars are pulling in. “Have I lost weight? She’s always getting on my case to eat. Oh look, Becca’s coming over.”
“We are going to talk about this,” Steve hisses, and then suddenly Bucky’s surrounded by unsettled smiles and anxious werewolf scent as far as the nose can sniff.
The whole morning goes like that, and as more people show up, they all react in a pretty similar way. It makes sense that real life weddings aren’t one hundred percent soft focused romance, but Bucky can’t find it in him to care, since he is marrying Steve Rogers. Perfect mate. It doesn’t stop him being a little miffed, though, and everyone keeps saying things that are apparently steeped in meaning but make no sense, and he swears he hears his aunts saying “umpire” at least twice.
Steve is going to bite through his own lips, and he didn’t even do that when he had first turned.
Worst case scenario has happened.
Worst case scenario has happened.
Bucky has waited until now for everyone in his entire almost-immortal extended family to find out Steve is a vampire.
“And so then,” Bucky’s uncle Jim says, laughing and swinging a bottle of local small batch in a wide arc, “Bucky says, ‘but which arm?’”
The were he’s talking to starts cracking up. They’re both at least six and a half feet tall and built like brick bunkers. Steve can probably run fast enough to get away from Bucky’s family if need be, but if anyone gets a good grip on him the show is completely over.
“Anyway, so I say to him, I say, ‘kid, I know it’ll grow back eventually, but it’s not exactly like in the meantime we have a spare - '”
Both werewolves get a nose full of Steve at the same time, and the conversation stops like a veteran crash dummy. They slowly turn, metaphorical hackles raised in a way that implies literal ones might come up at any moment.
“Hi,” Steve says, pointedly. “Thanks for coming to my wedding.”
“You’re Steve?” the woman says, wide eyed.
Steve just looks at her.
“Steve who made blood sausages from scratch the morning after?” Jim chokes out, agog. “Steve who made a First Full Moon feast complete with braciole?”
Steve stands up a little straighter. Even at his full six feet two he’s topping out right around clavicle level on Bucky’s uncle. “Bucky’s traditions are important to him, so they’re important to me.”
The woman looks at him a long time. “Are you at least Jewish?” she says finally.
“I’m not really comfortable taking part in most organized religions.” Steve takes a careful sip of his wine (red, since he’s just completely given up on being subtle at this point), and the two weres take a moment to digest this.
“No,” the man says weakly. “You wouldn’t be, would you.”
“I called this,” the woman is waving her chalice sized glass of chardonnay at the uncle in victory. “I said, ‘Damn, Jimmy, it’s as if the fiance went and binge-researched Wikibeastia for every romantic tradition since my great aunt Bellatrix was a baby.’ I said.”
Steve opens his mouth, closes it, and finally says, “Wikibeastia is not a reliable source.”
“That’s what I said!” Jimmy exclaims, rounding on the woman and gesturing with both of the beers he’s apparently drinking in series.
Steve can’t handle it anymore. He’s going to burst into bats. He retreats to the only place not full of werewolves just learning they are at a bispecial wedding, which is a custodial closet in the basement, closes the door and leans back.
Okay. The facts.
Fact 1: Bucky has never shown any curiosity about vampire customs, lore, habits, predilections, or observances. Steve had vaguely assumed this was out of respect for his supposed war trauma, or more likely because Bucky was aware that, well, there wasn't really that much to know. Vampires, falling as they did on the more solitary, one might even say temperamental, end of the supernatural spectrum, were less enthusiastic re: social niceties than your more gregarious types. Steve likes to think he’s made the best of his unlife, but he hasn’t imagined the details would ever interest anyone, even the world’s sweetest and most adoring not-lumberjack. Still, the fact remains that the V-word has, in fact, never actually been spoken.
Fact 2: Bucky hasn’t ever been ashamed of him or worried about his family’s or anyone else’s reaction to their engagement. What Bucky mostly wants is to run around the nearest public park at mach 5, or climb as close to on top of Steve as the social situation would allow. Steve was the one to ask Bucky to cut down the wedding guest list to fit the venue. Bucky would have been happy to have every were he had ever met stuff the place well beyond max capacity and straight into riot hazard territory.
Fact 3: Bucky on this most trying day of days continues to behave with blithe confidence that all is well despite the four separate times a wolfy relative had nearly spat out their drink after getting a good whiff of Steve. Bucky even chased off after a gaggle of pint-sized niblings at some point and left Steve to deal on his own, which was a cruelty Steve didn’t think Bucky was capable of. Bucky wouldn’t leave him to weather this ordeal alone if he knew what was happening.
All of which means that Bucky doesn’t know.
Bucky doesn’t know.
He needs to talk to Bucky right. Now.
Bucky is over by the dining tables helping his cousins get their toddlers into high chairs, which is significantly more complicated when the toddler has the muscle density of an Olympic weightlifter and absolutely no compunction about biting, clawing and flailing like a landed eel. “Come on, sweetpea, sit down so you can have your lambchops,” one of the mothers says firmly, dragging the kid’s legs through the chair holes while Bucky grimly tries to keep the frilly-frocked two year old from savaging him with any part of its upper body.
“We need to talk,” Steve says desperately. Some shred of his exanimate soul is holding out hope that all of this is just one big misunderstanding.
It isn’t a misunderstanding.
“Okay,” Steve says, when Bucky just stands in the basement closet and looks concerned. “Okay. So. I bit you when we first met.”
“Yyyyyyeah,” Bucky says slowly, leaning in a little. “That’s why we’re here right now. I remember.” His mouth is starting to curve up at the corner into Steve’s very favorite warm smile. Top three for sure. Oh god. Steve’s sluggish heart is twisting itself into a truly painful gymnastics contortion.
“Okay,” Steve grits out, because there’s that part done. “Well, have you noticed that I don’t like the sun and don’t smell as strong as everyone else and don’t heal quite as fast as you do? Did you notice the blackout curtains?”
“Yeah, having to work those weird hours baking at the cafe must be killer,” Bucky says reasonably. “I can’t imagine trying to sleep while the sun is still up. Of course you need blackout curtains. Wait, is this about your Past?”
Steve pauses at the capital letter Bucky somehow managed to pronounce. “My… past?”
Bucky takes his hand and gives him a look that at any other time probably would have Steve melting into a puddle of pallid lovestruck goo. “Sweetheart, you know that - ”
“Do you know of any other supernatural beings who bite necks,” Steve interrupts, desperate. “Any at all. Who maybe would do it pretty normally the first time they met you.”
Bucky frowns. “Well, I mean, just…”
There is a long, awful, gut-churning pause.
“No,” Bucky says.
“Yes,” Steve says.
“But you,” Bucky manages, squinting. “But you made - ”
“But you knew about - ”
“I know,” Steve grinds out. “I know I did, because you're important to me so I researched it. I thought you knew, too.”
“How would I know?” Bucky says weakly. “You said you had all those health issues!”
“Sure, before the vampirism. ” Steve swallows painfully. “If you want to cancel the wedding, I understand - ”
The closet door slams open. Steve and Bucky both jump and scramble backwards, tangling their legs together and almost falling into the mop bucket as Becca shoves into the closet and closes the door behind her. There’s a lot of her to shove in.
“Listen,” she hisses, jabbing a finger into Steve’s chest. “We are not cancelling anything. You bit it, you bought it, got it?”
“Becca.” Bucky grabs her shoulder. His other arm is still wrapped around Steve, neither of them steady on their feet. “Steve’s a vampire? Steve’s a vampire.”
Steve rubs his back automatically, then remembers that maybe Bucky doesn’t want Steve to be touching him right now. He tries to disengage, but dropping his hands just makes Bucky cling harder to his waist.
“Our mother is out there,” Becca continues, relentless. “Our grandfather is out there. Great-grandma Myrtle is out there, and she expects to see a wedding. You are marrying my idiot baby brother or else.”
Steve draws himself up and glares at the general region of Becca’s chin. “Nobody’s forcing Bucky to do anything he doesn’t want.”
“Duh,” Becca says. “So what he wants is to marry you. Whatever you are,” she adds pointedly.
“Oh my God,” Bucky says, visibly brightening. “This is just like Moonstruck Love: Forbidden Passion, except without the duel at the wedding. Hopefully. Wait, do you have an estranged sire who might show up and object?”
“No? Not, uh. Anymore.”
“Good, I’d rather skip that part. Honestly,” Bucky says, voice dipping low like he’s committing heresy, “it was kind of cliche.”
There’s a thump outside, and the door jerks open again. “Why are you all hiding in the maintenance closet,” Bucky’s mother demands, wedging inside. One of the shelving units collapses and sends cleaning products cascading down to the floor. “I can smell the anxiety across the room. Did Bucky pop a tail again? He always did lose control of his shift when he got stressed - ”
“I never popped a tail, Ma!” Bucky protested. “I was - ”
“Steve isn’t going to marry Bucky anymore,” Becca tattles immediately, which is honestly jarring coming from someone who could bench three of Steve even without the werewolf strength.
“He what,” Winnifred yelps, looking as if she’s going to take Steve by the ear and drag him outside. She probably could. “He’s going to leave my baby at the altar?”
“No one is - ” Steve tries, and then she actually drags him down by the ear. Since she’s a were and taller than Steve is, she then drags him right back up again.
“Now you listen here,” Winnifred hisses, and Steve would nod if vampires could grow back ears. “James has always been small and different. He’s never eaten enough. He’s always wandered too much. He’s - ”
“Way to convince him, Ma,” Bucky interrupts. “Tell him about when I used to run around Aunt Tilda’s flower patch naked as a kid, that one’s super sexy.”
“We all run around Aunt Tilda’s flower patch naked at least once a month,” Becca reminds him. “Aunt Tilda runs around her flower patch naked.”
“James right now has at least thirty pounds on the peak I ever fed him up to,” Winnifred continues, ignoring them. “If you think I’m going to let you just walk away from - ”
“Hey, what’s everyone doing in the closet?” one of Bucky’s innumerable uncles asks, poking his head in. “I thought our James was all done with closets. It’s a little hard to keep it under wraps,” he adds, giving Bucky a look, “when you marry one of the undead in front of God and everyone, especially when ‘everyone’ includes cousin Ethel before she’s even eviscerated her first elk of the day. No one is going to even look at cousin Marc sideways again after - ”
“Hey! Don’t call him undead!” Bucky snaps automatically, just as Becca announces “Steve is dumping Bucky and running already!”
“What?” says the uncle, and piles into the closet to the loud snap of mop handles splintering under the strain.
“No one said anything about leaving Bucky at the - ”
“Our James may be the weird, deviant runt of the family, but he’s - ”
“Don’t call Bucky a deviant,” Steve says, as threateningly as he can manage with his head still tipped sideways from Winifred's super-strength grip on his ear.
“He’s marrying a vampire,” Uncle Daniel says.
“Not anymore,” Bucky’s mother wails.
“Well he’s sure not if you all keep threatening him and telling him what a tiny runt of a freak I am,” Bucky shouts.
There’s the sound of a throat clearing seconds before the closet door is ripped away, hinges twisting and popping out of the frame in a squeal of metal. All the collected Barneses fall silent as a shadow looms across the doorway.
“What’s this,” Great-grandma Myrtle says mildly, storm clouds almost visibly gathering behind her towering, white-haired head, “about Rogers here not marrying our James?”
“Of course I’m marrying him!” Steve shouts. Bucky’s mother drops him and squeezes sideways to leave him eye-to-pearl-choker with Great-grandma Myrtle. Steve straightens his tie and surreptitiously touches his earlobe to make sure it’s still attached. “I love him. He’s my mate. The wedding’s only off if he doesn’t want to get married.”
Bucky throws his hands into the air. He smacks Uncle Daniel in the nose in the process, to Steve’s silent but vicious satisfaction. “Of course I still want to get married!”
“Good!” Steve yells. “Then there’s no problem! We’re getting married in two hours, and everyone can just deal with it or leave!”
“Great! I love you!”
“I love you too!”
Becca and Bucky’s mother exchange glances. “Two hours,” Becca says slowly. “That seems like a long wait. Since you’re… uh… mates and all.”
“You want us to do it now? Because I’ll do it now,” Steve says heatedly. “I am ready. I will wed right now.”
“Good,” Great-grandma Myrtle, Becca and Winifred all say in unison, all of them grabbing some part of Steve and hauling him out of the closet. Uncle Daniel, after a brief slapfight, tows Bucky along behind.
Steve has to change into his wedding tux last minute, which was always the plan given he was going to be handling all the food beforehand and he refused to say his vows with pear sauce on his jacket, but it’s a little more stressful than he initially expected given he’s doing it now with three werewolves at his side, all trying to help but mostly invested in their argument over how to properly tie the bowtie. They’re also all outside, protected only from indecent exposure by the confluence of Steve’s catering van and Bucky’s Cousin Hanna’s regular everyday van, parked abutting the gazebo. Five carseats of varying sizes are visible through the windows.
“Hey,” says Bucky’s Uncle Daniel, who followed them out of the basement and is showing every sign of having a great time now that he’s come around to the whole ‘marrying the undead’ situation. He’s about to crush Steve’s tie, but Steve isn’t going to say anything when a werewolf has a strip of silk around his neck. He might not need to breathe, but he needs the head attached. “You turn into a bat, right?”
Steve pulls a face and makes a sorta kind of gesture.
Uncle Daniel hums. “Bats have fur, at least,” he concedes charitably, releasing Steve’s tie.
“There’s the fangs, too,” the other uncle offers, stuffing Steve into his jacket and spinning him around to frog-march him back into the venue. “Marrying a vampire isn’t so bad. You might even be able to keep up with Bucky when he goes running in his fur.”
The third were is skeptical, but apparently willing to be persuaded. “He says you feed him well?”
Steve gestures at the catering van on their way past.
The were looks considering, then nods. “Yeah, okay. Could be worse. Could be a veterinarian.”
Everything goes extremely quickly for a wedding where half the attendees look like they’re just waiting for the part where they are all invited to stand up and object. Bucky is hustled up the aisle after him, the crowd hushes, and Bucky’s aunt the mail-order officiant starts talking double time.
Thankfully the ‘hold your peace’ part is skipped altogether, and Bucky says he does, and Steve says he does, and then -
“Wait,” says the only human in the room, and therefore the last poor schmuck to realize what’s happening. It isn’t that she’s loud, really. It’s just that everyone else in the place has supernatural hearing. “Hold on. Is he a vampire? Is your cousin marrying a vampire?”
“Yes,” hisses the were sitting with her, positively gleeful. “We aren’t the black sheep anymore! My mother is finally going to have someone else to complain about!”
“Oh, thank god,” the woman says back, and this is the final nail in the coffin.
The three month stretch of high-speed wedding planning capped by the realization that his fiance didn’t even know they weren’t the same species winds up, stretches out like a rubber band, and snaps in to hit him all at once. Steve draws in a deep breath to tell Bucky they’re fucking eloping - only right then he feels the familiar dreaded tickle somewhere under his breastbone.
“Oh no,” he manages, right before the full stress response hits and he explodes into five hundred and seventy-three bats.
Bucky, to his credit, startles but then immediately lunges forward to try and catch most of him. Steve, now feeling the acute embarrassment of having disintegrated at the goddamn altar, has to struggle not to scatter into the nearest dark places he can find as his beautiful bespoke tuxedo gently deflates onto the pavilion floor. The swarm mostly coalesces around Bucky, but even his shoulders only have so much room.
And then his one thousand one hundred and forty-six tiny, unbelievably sensitive ears create a three dimensional surround sound experience in his tiny bat brains of the entire wedding party, separately and collectively, losing their everloving minds.
Bucky is ready to howl, but if he starts, he’s never going to stop.
Uncle Marc has tears streaming down his face, laughing so hard he can’t get more than a few words out at a time. “Welcome to… to the family!” he wheezes, clearly secure in the joyous knowledge that no one is ever going to talk about his own wedding ever again. “Now that you’re joined… now that you’re joined in…”
“Don’t you dare say it, Marc,” Bucky threatens, shaking a finger at him. He’s holding one of Steve in that hand, though, so he just ends up shaking a disassembled, animalized portion of his groom at his cousin. He’s got one of Steve everywhere : twelve Steves in his jacket, three up his pants leg, seven held cradled in his arm and maybe five or six in his hair. Scores more are clinging desperately to every fold of his tux, including one tucked up under his collar shivering like a tiny overwrought velvet bowtie. “Don’t you fucking say it!”
“Joined in holy bat-rimony,” Marc finally squawks out, and Bucky almost goes toothy right then and there. Marc’s human wife has sucked her lips between her teeth and her eyebrows are almost up to her hairline in delight, but he gives her a dirty look and shakes a Steve at her, too, before turning to cousin Jenny and shouting, “And if you even think of sending that tweet!”
Jenny pauses mid-tap. Then she looks him dead in the eye and posts.
Bucky finally loses it.
“I WILL DISOWN THE LOT OF YOU,” he bellows at the crowd, and if he’s always been the talked-over baby runt, it wasn’t because he lacked volume. “I will disown Thanksgiving! I will disown the lunar new year! This is my husband!” Bucky thrusts the Steves in his immediate grip into the air like Simba at Pride Rock. “This is my beautiful, perfect husband who loves everything I am and you will cherish him and respect him as much as I do or so help me.”
There’s a pause where Bucky thinks someone might giggle and it’ll all be over bar the blood feud, but then Great-Grandma Myrtle gets ponderously to her feet and starts clapping and whistling. When Great-Grandma Myrtle claps, so does everyone around her, mostly out of self defense. Maybe some of them are looking a little sour, and maybe a lot more of them are doing it for the pure drama and hilarity of the moment, but on the upside Bucky isn’t going to go down in Barnes family history as the only family member to get laughed out of his own wedding.
“Now either help me collect him,” Bucky says, “or get out of our way.”
Steves flutter and resettle to hang from his elbows as Bucky stalks over to the main table, upends the centerpiece, and extracts the basket, but he doesn’t object to being stacked in there one bat at a time.
Natasha is looking sleek, perilous, and extra small considering the company despite her towering high heels. “So you decided, on a whim. To just get married two hours early.”
Steve shifts uncomfortably, but is absolutely not going to burst into a cloud of bats for the second time that day. Especially since Bucky had only just found the last of him curled up on the wainscotting above the east corner of the pavilion and finally put the ring on Steve’s finger and a tongue down his throat maybe ten minutes later. He’s still missing one sock.
“And it didn’t occur to you,” Natasha continues, a dangerous note in her voice, “to maybe text your wedding party to let them know.”
“Are you kidding,” Sam says, arms already weighed down from the buffet. He has three salmon croquettes juggled in his left hand and is chewing through what looks like two more. “I was going to be stuck in these shoes standing upright for longer than I have since basic, and now instead I get to loosen my tie and head straight for the open bar. It’s not even my fault, I have zero guilt, and I get to make fun of Steve for it for the rest of my human lifespan. This is the best wedding ever.”
“You said I should work this out on my own,” Steve says, slightly defensive. “Well, it worked out.”
Natasha looks over his shoulder to where a dozen of Bucky’s nieces and nephews are bunching together and then exploding outwards over the lawn, shrieking with laughter, in a game Steve is carefully not paying attention to. He’s especially not noticing how they keep yelling “BAT BOMB” before dispersing.
“Did it,” Natasha says.
“It definitely worked out,” Bucky repeats firmly, taking Steve’s hand, and every wolf within fifteen feet probably hears Steve’s heart give a single, emphatic thump. There’s suddenly a lot of totally not subtle camera activity and also a certain amount of eye rolling.
Steve determinedly ignores that, too. It hasn’t been a perfect wedding, but so what. At the end of the day he is standing next to Bucky, who’d carefully scooped up all of his five-hundred-odd bats and held up a tablecloth so Steve wouldn’t have to change back into his tux in front of the many interested eyes of the party guests, and that was what really mattered.
“Bat bomb,” Clint bellows, from the epicenter of a roiling swarm of howling werekids.
Steve’s eye twitches, but then Bucky’s gaze catches his and he smiles Steve’s number one favorite smile, almost blinding even in the comfortable dusk. And Steve knows that at this moment, both of them are finally, truly on the same page. The wedding is over, and now it’s all smooth sailing into the honeymoon.
Bucky sent photos of the honeymoon
Natasha leans across Clint, his totally mundane dog, and the very not mundane Demon perched on the sofa arm to steal the popcorn bowl back. This requires snacks.
I didn’t know vamps could GET freckles. Look at him. He’s like a slug mummified in terry cloth hidden under that umbrella and he’s still bright pink and covered with them.
There are some things humans aren’t supposed to know.
Yeah, okay Witchy McScaresalot. See if I send you the rest, then.
Bucky’s stealth shot of Steve napping on the beach did, in fact, make him look like a terry cloth slug. He was swaddled in more towels than Natasha would have thought even a resort could provide, with bright purple sunblock on his nose, and he still had the complexion of a freckled lobster. A creased paperback copy of “Moonstruck Love: Necks in the City” was propped open spine-up on his chest.
Natasha considers. A new shipment of griffin eggs is due on the 15th. She needs all the leverage on Steve she can get. He’s ridiculously protective of his walk-in cooler space ever since the ravioli incident, which should never have happened in the first place. Seven-moss poultice base doesn’t even look like pesto, and it’s not her fault Steve didn’t read the label.
Fortunately you are among the favored few.
You’re damn right I am. Hey, are ‘True Mates’ actually a thing? Like, at all?
“Hey, yeah,” Clint says, pulling the popcorn bowl back into range of the dog like he thinks she won’t notice. He and the Demon are both craning their necks to read the texts. “I thought you said that wasn’t a thing?”
The Demon looks as curious about it as anything with no eyebrows can. It cocks its head and nearly takes out Clint’s laptop with its horns.
“It’s absolutely not a thing,” Natasha assures them. “It’s like the whole vampires wearing long capes and seducing breathless virgins in the dark thing - it’s a way to sell books with fantasies of big scary predators meeting and falling in love at first bite.”
“So like, about as credible as the garlic bread masochism scene in Fifty Shades of Red,” Clint says, chewing with his mouth open to cover the sounds of the dog licking up the kernels he’s dropping.
The Demon’s forehead crinkles. “So - ”
“So not credible at all,” Natasha says, texting Sam the same thing.
I’m pretty sure big scary predators falling in love at first bite is exactly what happened here.
Natasha is typing
Natasha is typing
You know, humans ALREADY don’t live that long.
Natasha tilts the phone until what looked at first glance like a very lumpy fur rug in front of the fireplace resolves into a napping wolf with hundreds of tiny bats roosting in his fur. The blurry outline of claws at the bottom edge of the picture show how Steve managed to get the shot.
“I could be a bat,” the Demon says thoughtfully.
“We support you, buddy.” Clint reaches out and pats one of its horns without looking up from Natasha’s phone. “Might be cheaper to feed you if you were a little smaller. Not that you shouldn’t pick whatever size you’re comfortable with - ”
“But if you want to stay here long term and you keep taking up the couch every night, I’m going to start charging you rent,” Natasha cuts in.
“What kind of rent?”
Natasha smiles. “I usually deal in favors.”
The Demon looks at her, then at Clint, then down at the dog, and back at her. One soft implosion of air later, a dainty fruit bat is perched on the couch. The Demon chirrups and gestures with one delicate wing at the popcorn bowl.
Natasha adds the pictures Sam sent to Steve’s blackmail folder. She doesn’t know how she’s picked up so many strays over the centuries, but she has to admit, they do keep life interesting.