The fae and the human world have always existed side-by-side, and, in secret places all over the Earth, where the air is a little lighter and the colors a little brighter, they even cross-over. Only the fae have knowledge of these places, but every once in awhile, a human with an open mind and an open heart will discover one and decide to investigate.
A myriad of stories based on such adventures will tell you that it never ends well.
The fae like to stick to their own world, seeking comfort in the familiarity of magic and nature, though some grow curious and want to know more. They love to study and observe these strange humans and their way of life. But they have to be careful, as staying too long in the human world is detrimental to their health.
As one will soon learn…
Steve had lost count of how many times he’d left his world to see the man named Bucky, and he certainly wasn’t going to stop anytime soon. At first it had been a simple curiosity about the human world. As a faery, the humans intrigued him, and he’d been keen to learn more about them.
This man, Bucky, lived closest to the small meadow where the fae and human worlds crossed over. Steve had initially seen him sitting on the wrap-around porch of the small house reading a book, and had instantly found himself captivated. Bucky was rugged and handsome and so perfectly human . He was everything Steve had imagined and more. There were two other humans that sometimes visited Bucky, a raggedy blond named Clint and the scarlet-haired Natasha, but it seemed they traveled far to do so and the visits were few and far between.
Bucky, for the most part, was alone.
He didn’t just observe the one human, of course. Steve had gone beyond the house and further, until he’d reached a small town. The small shops, made of brick and wood, sold only the necessities, and the houses just outside of the town were large, wooden, and built a good distance from one another.
Compared to the bustling faery city where Steve lived, he was shocked by how tiny and secluded this human town seemed, with Bucky being the most isolated of them all. But Bucky seemed to welcome the solitude, and Steve appreciated how close he was to the fae world. He didn’t have to venture far from the small clearing where the worlds crossed over before he was near enough to Bucky’s house to watch him.
On this particular day, Bucky was once again out on his back porch - but he wasn’t alone. There were two crows with him, and he was feeding them what appeared to be a mix of nuts and berries straight from his hand. Steve had seen these birds with him a few times before, but now he noticed just how comfortable they were around Bucky. They fed right out of his palm, taking care not to nick at his skin with their sharp beaks.
When the food was gone, one crow flew off while the other let itself be pet. Steve was intrigued to find that Bucky had not once used his left hand to touch the birds. He didn’t even let them near it, subtly shifting it away whenever they came close. Steve took note of the glove, focusing all his attention to the arm itself. It moved smoothly, but he sensed something unnatural about it, in the literal sense of the word.
Bucky’s arm was not organic.
He shrugged it off, deciding not to think of the matter further. Bucky’s arm might not be natural, but it didn’t particularly concern him. He’d noticed humans sometimes had man-made enhancements that went hand-in-hand with the technology of their world. A young girl in the town had had strings of metal attached to her teeth, while he’d sensed a small device in an elderly man’s chest that sent electric pulses to his heart.
The crow that’d flown off was now coming back, a small object in its beak. It landed next to where Bucky was sitting, and when he held his palm out, the bird dropped the item into it. Bucky examined the small object, but Steve was too far away to see what it was, and could only tell that it glittered with light when the sun hit it. Bucky grinned slowly and pocketed the item, then began petting the crow.
“Thank you,” Bucky said to it, his voice almost too low for Steve to hear.
Steve didn’t know much about human relationships with animals, but he felt like he was witnessing something private, like the bond between Bucky and the crows was something special to be kept away from prying eyes.
Bucky was special, and Steve knew, deep down inside, that he had never felt this way about another before. It wasn’t love, no, as he’d never actually met him, but it was now more than the initial curiosity that continuously brought him back to stand in the same place.. He desired to know more about the man who lived alone and befriended birds, and he wanted said man to know about him . He would need to reveal himself.
But now was apparently not the time. Steve heard the car before he saw it - a black monster of a thing, though smaller than some of the vehicles he’d seen in the town. It parked at the side of the house beside Bucky’s car that he only occasionally used, then Clint and Natasha jumped out. The crows flew away and Bucky frowned, but his smile was genuine, if not a little reserved, when he went to greet his visitors.
Steve would have to wait a little longer before he could reveal himself. Because they traveled far, sometimes Clint and Natasha would stay a night or two. He didn’t dislike them, but he didn’t trust them the same as he did Bucky either. The crows flew away when they arrived, after all.
Bucky really did not enjoy going to his monthly physical therapy sessions. Not because they weren’t helpful, or because he didn’t like his therapist. Not at all. He just hated the long drive to get there. Spending just over two hours on the road each way was not something he looked forward to, but he knew it had to be done.
He supposed he could just move closer to the office, but in the long run it wouldn’t be a good idea. He and his therapist had both agreed that living in the woods had been more beneficial than living in a busy city had. Of the three years since the accident that claimed his arm, his recovery had progressed the most in the last ten months since he’d moved away from civilization.
On his way home, he stopped at the grocer in town to pick up a few things. While he loved Clint and Nat, he didn’t love the fact that they almost always showed up unannounced, and the two extra mouths to feed usually depleted his supplies. He grabbed the standard groceries, and then a little extra for his crows.
Bucky loved his crows. They lived nearby his house, and had been curious when he’d moved in. They’d kept their distance for a while, but Bucky wanted to let them know he was friendly. He’d begun leaving food out for them, and gradually over the months they’d progressed from eating those scraps to eating straight out of his hand. In the past few weeks, they’d even started bringing him gifts. He’d looked that up and learned that it wasn’t normal behavior for crows, so he knew he was truly blessed.
He parked in his usual spot beside his house and made his way inside, taking his time to unload the groceries. He’d just finished putting the last few snacks away when he heard one of his crows caw from the back porch. Bucky smiled to himself, grabbed a few of the chili peppers he’d bought, and headed outside.
Then stopped in his tracks, jaw threatening to drop at the sight before him.
A small man was sitting on the porch steps, petting his crows as easily as Bucky himself did. He felt a sharp stab of anger and jealousy. Here this strange man was, petting his crows that he’d spent months building trust with as if it was nothing. Not only that, but petting them on his back porch. What was this man doing here anyway?
“Can I help you?” Bucky asked, more politely than he wanted to be at that moment. His mother had done a good job of teaching him manners.
The man looked up, unfazed, and stared at him for a few moments. He had golden blond hair and sharp features on a thin face, and he gazed at Bucky with wide blue eyes framed by long lashes. His clothing wasn’t all that unusual - fitted blue trousers and a loose white shirt - but the weather had been unseasonably cold for spring and this man wore no shoes or coat.
He was skinny, too. Far too skinny to be healthy. All of Bucky’s anger vanished in an instant and was replaced by concern.
The man stopped staring and seemed to gather his wits. “Actually, you can help me. I… Well, I, uh…”
Bucky raised an eyebrow and waited for him to explain himself. How was he supposed to help if he didn’t know what the problem was? The blond man blushed deep red when he couldn’t get the words out, shrinking in on himself a little, trying to appear even smaller. Bucky didn’t think it was possible.
“Sorry, it’s just a little embarrassing,” he said, rubbing the back of his head bashfully. He looked up again and met Bucky’s eyes, something strange flashing through them. “I got lost in the woods and yours is the first house I came across. I was wondering if you could help me out.”
Instantly, Bucky knew he was lying. He’d gone from a stammering mess to confidently proclaiming that he was lost. It seemed like he changed his mind at the last second, but instead of pondering on the why, Bucky thought he’d just go with it. After all, if this man wanted to hurt him, then he’d need some exceptionally good luck. He was 100 pounds soaking wet and Bucky was six feet tall with a metal arm. It was definitely not an even match.
But how could he help this man? The town was so small it didn’t even have a motel, and Bucky wasn’t keen on driving any further than that. The sun would be going down soon, and with the surprisingly cool weather, he couldn’t just leave him alone. He only had one choice, even if he felt reluctant to make it.
“It’s getting late, so you’re welcome to stay here the night. We’ll head inside soon, before it gets any colder. But first…” Bucky sat down on the other side of the stairs from the man, then held out one of the chilies for the crows. They both came rushing over for the treat, almost fighting over which would get it first. Bucky chuckled lowly, pulling another out so they could both have one each.
The man watched, transfixed, as the birds ate from Bucky’s hand, splitting open the outer flesh of the chilies to get to the seeds inside.
“They really do like those, don’t they,” the man stated.
Bucky shrugged. “I Googled what crows like to eat when I first saw them hanging around. Apparently chilies and other peppers are a favorite of theirs. I sometimes buy them as a treat.”
“They’re lucky to have you, then.”
“I’m lucky to have them too.” Bucky smiled shyly, ducking his head a little, feeling slightly self-conscious at how candid he’d just been with a stranger. “What’s your name, anyway?”
“Steven, but you can call me Steve.” He smiled brightly at Bucky.
“Well, Steve, it’s nice to meet you,” Bucky replied, smiling back. “I’m Bucky. You ready to head in?”
The sun had finally fallen behind the trees and it was growing colder by the minute. Steve was so frail and dressed so inappropriately for the weather that Bucky rushed to get him inside before he got sick. He figured a tour could wait, so he lead Steve straight to the guest room, and pulled one of the spare towels from the closet. He handed it to Steve, who was looking around the room with unabashed curiosity.
“Feel free to have a shower. I’m sure you’d want to wash off after getting lost in the woods.” He made sure to say it in a way that made Steve aware he knew he was lying, but was helping him out anyway. “Bathroom’s at the end of the hall. Put your clothes in the basket and I’ll wash them tonight. You hungry?”
Steve nodded. “A little.”
Bucky raised an eyebrow. A skinny guy like that should be ravenous after being ‘lost in the woods’, not just a little hungry. “Well, I’m going to make us some dinner. Take your time.” He patted Steve on the shoulder, then left him to go make dinner.
The fae had baths, not showers, but it didn’t take Steve long to figure out how to work the thing. The most trouble he had was getting the temperature right, taking a few minutes to find the perfect balance. When he had it, he found himself enjoying the way the warm water beat into his skin at a nice pressure - far better than the heavy downpour of cold waterfall water he’d occasionally swam in.
While he showered, his mind was quick to find itself on a dark train of thought. There had been something nagging at him since he’d met Bucky.
All he’d intended to do was meet and befriend him, telling him everything along the way. But then actually meeting Bucky in person had overwhelmed Steve, turning him into a stuttering mess. He lost his nerve at the last second, doubts fluttering through his mind, and he made up that lie about getting lost in the woods. As if he could. And Bucky knew it was a lie, which made him feel horrible, but he was so kind to Steve anyway. Bucky was perfect.
Steve was a goddamn coward and he hated it.
He considered simply telling the truth once he’d finished his shower, just taking the risk and seeing how it all played out. But now that he was here, a very small, selfish part of himself didn’t want things to change. He’d be lying - again - if he said he didn’t choose this particular time to visit Bucky for a reason.
The weather over the next few days was going to be inconvenient, to say the least.
Steve washed himself with the only body wash available, happy to find that it kind of made him smell like Bucky. It was a subtle scent, warm and woody, which made sense as the label on the bottle read ‘sandalwood’.
When he was finished, he wrapped himself in the towel and headed back to the guest room, surprised to find a fresh pair of clothes folded on the bed. He smiled and blushed to himself, delighted that Bucky had thought to lend him some clothes. The long-sleeved shirt and the pants made of some thick, stretchy material were both far too big for his small frame, but Steve simply rolled up the sleeves and pulled the drawstring tight around his waist.
Unsure of where to put the damp towel, he slung it over the back of a wooden chair that sat by an almost bare desk. Steve picked up a small frame and smiled at the photo it held of Bucky being squished between Clint and Natasha. They all had happy grins on their faces, and looked much younger than they did now. He wondered how long Bucky had known the couple.
Steve observed the room, taking time to memorize the details. He was fascinated by the electronic items that weren’t found in his world. It was the first time he’d been inside a human house, and was a little dismayed at how similar it was to fae houses. There were many small differences, of course, but most of it was the same.
While the food was on the stove, Bucky made his way over to the fireplace in the main room and stoked the flames. He’d started the fire right after he’d left Steve, wanting the house to be warmed up by the time he finished his shower. The wind had picked up outside, rattling the windows and making the tree branches creak and groan.
Having grown up in Brooklyn, it’d taken Bucky a while to get used to the sounds of nature, but once he did, he found he preferred them over the buzz of the city. No more sirens or the noise of violence. The air was cleaner, too, which he was constantly grateful for.
Echoing footsteps from down the hall alerted him to Steve’s presence, and Bucky turned to see that Steve was drowning in the dry clothes. They were the smallest he could find, but were still far too big. If Nat had left some clothes, Bucky figured he could lend those to Steve as they’d be a better fit, though he wasn’t sure how he’d react to being given women’s clothing.
“I thought you’d like to wear clean clothes. I hope you don’t mind. I’ll leave yours in the dryer overnight after I wash them.” Bucky smiled softly, making his way over to the stove to check on the food.
“Well, I hadn’t actually thought of that, so thank you. It was very kind of you.” Steve pulled himself onto one of the stools at the breakfast bar, resting his face on his hands. “What’re you cooking? It smells delicious.”
Bucky grinned, always pleased when someone praised his cooking. It was a hobby he’d taken up when he moved to the woods, and he found learning new recipes to be both therapeutic and a good way to spend his time. “It’s lamb stew. I’m reheating it from the other night, but don’t worry, it tastes better when I do. The meat has had more time to soak up all the flavors.”
“I’ll take your word for it,” Steve said easily, quirking up one side of his mouth in a small half-smile.
“You won’t have to in a minute.” Bucky stirred the stew a few more times, before crouching down to pull two bowls out of a cupboard. He placed them on the bench beside the stove, and using a large soup ladle, filled both bowls to the brim. “Come on, we’ll eat by the fire.”
Steve eyed the dining table that they passed, wondering why Bucky was forgoing the human custom of eating there. “Not at the table?”
“No need to be so formal.” Bucky shrugged, handing one of the bowls to Steve as he sat on the floor in front of the couch, legs stretched out before him. “Besides, it’s warmer here. I don’t know why it’s been so cold lately, but the fire’s nice.”
“Hmm, it is.” Steve wasn’t sensitive to cold temperatures like humans were, but he did prefer the warmth and couldn’t deny how pleasant the heat of the fire felt against his skin. He seated himself on the floor a few feet away from Bucky and began eating. The stew was good, flavored with the perfect blend of herbs, and just the right hint of spice. It warmed him from the inside out. Steve hadn’t felt so content in such a long time.
Bucky watched him from the corner of his vision, undeniably pleased that Steve was so obviously enjoying his meal. Steve was smiling to himself, and making these little sounds of delight - so distracted by his food that Bucky didn’t even know if he realized it. Hell, he was even unconsciously leaning towards the warmth of the fire.
The way the light danced across Steve’s face didn’t soften his features, but rather threw them into sharp relief. Bucky was transfixed, suddenly very aware of Steve. He must’ve been shocked by the turn of events to not have noticed Steve’s beauty before then.
Steve finished his food well before Bucky did, holding onto his bowl as if he didn’t know what to do with it.
“More?” Bucky asked, already reaching for the empty bowl.
Startled, Steve handed it to him. “Oh, uh, yes please.”
Bucky grinned and got up to get him another helping of the stew. Steve was blushing again, which Bucky saw as both amusing and endearing. It contrasted well with the fact that Steve’s voice was unusually deep for such a small man.
While he was in the kitchen, Bucky had the sudden realization that as shy as Steve seemed to be, it probably took some courage for him to not panic when Bucky had found him at his home. He had guts, that was for sure, and Bucky respected him for that. But still, why had he lied?
“Where are you from, anyway?” Bucky asked when he gave Steve the second bowl of stew. “And how did you get lost in the first place?”
Steve recoiled a little, holding the bowl close to his body. He paused, considering the questions, before shaking his head with a sad little smile. “I don’t want to talk about it.”
Something didn’t sit right with Bucky. He knew Steve was telling the truth this time, but he was still hiding something. “Were you running from something, Steve? Is somebody after you?”
“No, no!” Steve shook his head quickly, suddenly wide-eyed and serious. “Nothing like that at all, I promise. It’s just… stupid and embarrassing. I’m sorry, but I really don’t want to talk about it.”
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to push you.” Bucky ducked his head, feeling a little ashamed at trying to pry into this stranger’s life. Sure, it was a little unnerving to let a stranger into his home, but he didn’t think Steve was lying when he said it was embarrassing. He wouldn’t push the matter again.
They finished eating in silence. Steve felt like even more of a coward for once again not telling Bucky the truth. He’d been given a second chance to explain himself, and at this point he didn’t think Bucky would be very angry. If he didn’t believe Steve was a faery, he could simply show him. But the fear of being rejected was too high, so Steve had kept his mouth shut.
And yes, he was a little embarrassed by the prospect of Bucky knowing what he was. When fae revealed themselves to humans, it was because of their feelings for them. Steve had never been confident around those he had feelings for. The fact that he had even forced himself into this meeting with Bucky was a big achievement for him.
Bucky collected their bowls when they were both done, giving them a quick wash, then put the stew back in the fridge. Steve figured it was a good idea to cook so much of it like Bucky had - it would last him awhile, was easy to reheat, and was perfect for when he had unexpected guests… like Steve. He wondered what else Bucky could cook, and was lost in thought about potential future meals together when Bucky came back to the fire.
“I’ve had a long day, so I think I’ll be heading to bed soon,” Bucky told him, snuggling into his thick sweatshirt as he gazed from the fireplace over to Steve. “You’re welcome to stay up, but I’m sorry to say, I don’t have a TV.”
Steve had seen TVs before, so he was glad he knew what they were when Bucky said that. “That’s okay, I don’t watch TV anyway. But if you have some books, I wouldn’t mind reading before I go to sleep.”
“Oh, sure, come on.” Bucky’s face lit up and he lead Steve to a large bookcase near the bedrooms that Steve had overlooked when he’d come in. It was filled with well worn paperbacks, some with little stickers on the spine. “So, what do you like? I have a few classics, but mostly just sci-fi and fantasy.”
“Sci-fi sounds good.” Steve had no idea what that was, and was curious.
Bucky scanned the books, looking for a title, before finding one and grabbing it. “Have you read The Martian ? I loved the movie so I bought the book as well. It’s really good.”
“I haven’t, no.” Steve took the book and examined the cover, intrigued by the astronaut on the front. He knew little of humanity’s space adventures and was interested in learning more, even if it was fictionalized. “Thank you.”
“No problem. I hope you like it.” Bucky started heading towards the hall to his room. He paused at the corner, looking back. “Feel free to read by the fire. Just make sure to put it out before you head to bed in the spare room. I’m gonna quickly do that load of washing now, then I’m going right to sleep. Night, Steve.”
And then Bucky headed off with a smile so bright it left Steve feeling warmer than the fire had.
It was the sudden crack of thunder that woke Bucky up the next morning, not the usual day’s sunlight shining through his window. A glance down the hall showed that the guest bedroom door was closed, so Bucky quickly had a shower and got ready for the day.
If the weather had been a bit cold lately, it was absolutely freezing now with the storm raging outside. It was noisy, too - the rain beating heavily against the roof tiles and window panes. Bucky dressed in sweats and threw on a fluffy robe, then headed to the kitchen to make breakfast.
He put the coffee on first. He didn’t have a fancy coffee machine or anything, but instant coffee was fine by him, as long as he bought the right brand. It’s not like he’d be able to buy anything fancy from the town anyway. It was no frills there, just the way he liked.
He figured something warm would be nice for breakfast, and went about making an omelette. He used his trusty iron skillet and cooked it in the oven, along with some bacon, and then grilled some tomatoes and mushrooms. Bucky crossed his fingers and hoped that Steve wasn’t too much of a fussy eater. He’d loved the stew last night, but mushrooms were always hit or miss with people.
Well, if Steve didn’t want them, then there’d be more for Bucky.
He was just checking on the bacon when Steve woke up, sleepily trudging to the bench just like he’d done the night before.
“Morning, Steve,” he greeted, pulling the food out of the oven.
“Mmmm, mornin’ Buck.” Steve let out a long yawn that became a yelp when thunder clapped overhead. “What time is it? Storm woke me up.”
Bucky checked the clock on the wall, surprised by the time. “It’s almost ten, we slept in.”
“Huh, must’ve been sleepier than I thought.”
“What time did you get to bed?” Bucky asked, hoping he’d gotten a good night’s sleep.
“Not long after you did, maybe an hour later.” Steve shrugged, perking up a little more as Bucky started portioning out the food. “It was a good book, but I didn’t finish it.”
With a glance out the window to the chaos outside, Bucky grinned. “Well, it looks like you won’t be going anywhere yet, so you’ve got time to finish it. Do you want some coffee?”
Humans and fae shared most of the same foods, but coffee was not one of them. Steve had seen the popularity of it among the humans, though, and was keen to try some, if not a little nervous. “Don’t laugh, but I’ve never actually tried it. I’d like to, though.”
“Wait, really?” Bucky didn’t laugh, but his eyebrows shot towards his hairline. “I drink mine black, but that might be too bitter for you. I suppose for your first coffee you should try it with milk and sugar.”
A sweet, warm drink sounded amazing to Steve right then, and he nodded eagerly. “That sounds great.”
“Okay, I’ll make one for you. Here’s your breakfast. If you don’t like mushrooms, then just throw them on my plate.” Bucky grinned, amused by Steve’s childish curiosity, as he made the coffee.
Steve was already shoveling mouthfuls in when Bucky passed him the cup of hot coffee, but Bucky didn’t start eating himself until he saw Steve’s reaction after the first sip. Steve took a large mouthful and instantly frowned, swallowing it down. Bucky held back his laughter, reminded of his first time drinking coffee. He’d been thirteen and thought he should drink coffee like an adult, but the flavor had been far too strong for his liking.
“Don’t like it?” Bucky asked, smirking a little when Steve took another tentative little sip.
He savored the flavor for a moment before taking another sip. “It’s good, I was just expecting it to be a bit sweeter.”
“Ahh, I see.” Bucky grabbed the jar of sugar and passed it to Steve. “I only put one teaspoon in, so feel free to add more.”
“Thanks.” Steve added two more spoons of sugar to the coffee before he seemed satisfied with it.
They ate in comfortable silence, something Bucky was glad of. He hated trying to make small talk with strangers. Steve would sometimes glance around the large, open room, drinking in the details with his eyes and apparently liking what he saw, if the small smile on his face was anything to go by.
That or he was again really enjoying his food. Either was fine by Bucky.
He realised then that a part of him wanted to please Steve. Doing well gave him some strange kind of validation… It’d been a long time since he’d felt useful or worthy, and Steve was such a frail little thing that was just begging to be cared for, so he’d do all he could to make him feel welcome and well tended to.
Steve offered to help wash the dishes when they finished eating, but Bucky shooed him off, so he went and retrieved the book he’d been reading the night before. He read on the couch, feet tucked up beneath him, and shivered a little in the same clothes he’d been wearing the night before. It was colder than it had been the day before, with the storm still raging outside, and Bucky felt like a fool for not thinking to warm the house up. First, he pulled Steve’s clothes from the dryer and put them on his bed, then grabbed a spare throw blanket from the linen cupboard.
“Hey, you look cold. Here.” He gave Steve the blanket with an easy grin, then moved over to the fireplace.
Bucky didn’t feel very tired, but when the fire was going strong, he curled into a ball on the armchair and half-dozed off while Steve read, slipping in and out of consciousness as he gazed at the dancing flames.
When Bucky woke up, he turned to find Steve was no longer on the couch. Panic set in and he jumped up, worried something had happened while he slept, only to see Steve standing by a shelf on the wall and looking like a deer caught in headlights.
“Are you okay?” Steve’s startled expression morphed into one of concern, eyebrows drawn close and mouth tightened into a hard line.
“Yeah, I’m fine.” Bucky shook his head, chuckling to himself for thinking the worst. “I just freaked out when I noticed you were gone.”
“Oh, I see.” Steve relaxed and smiled, turning back to look at the shelf. “What is all this stuff?”
Bucky made his way over, feeling a certain fondness for the random little treasures that decorated half the small shelf. There were several pieces of coloured glass, some beads, a few buttons, two of those cheap diamante rings used for costumes, a gold star-shaped pendant, and a lone diamond earring.
“The crows started bringing me gifts a few weeks ago, and I’ve been keeping them here ever since.” Bucky picked up one of the beads; a mostly translucent one the size of a pea. He held it towards the fire and Steve saw how it glittered prettily when the light hit it. “This is the most recent gift. I got it just the other day, but they haven’t been around much since. I had some friends over, then I had to go to town for a little while… and then you.”
“Hey, don’t blame me.” Steve held up his hands in surrender. “Your crows liked me well enough, so it’s not like I scared them away.”
He hadn’t really given it much thought, but Bucky started to wonder if maybe having Steve here was a good thing. The crows weren’t quick to trust others, and even avoided Clint and Nat… But they liked Steve, so there must’ve been something special about him.
And, well, he liked that Steve called them ‘Bucky’s crows’. “You’re right, it’s definitely the incoming storm that scared them away.”
“See, that’s a much better explanation.” Steve’s grin faded slowly as he seemed to think something over. He didn’t say anything, though, instead looking at the items again.
Bucky put a hand on Steve’s shoulder and turned him so they were face to face. “Hey, what’s up?”
“It’s silly, but…” Steve met Bucky’s eyes with the most hopeful expression. “Do you think when the weather clears up, before I go, that maybe I can stay just long enough to feed the crows with you?”
Bucky’s heart swelled at the comment, feeling suddenly affectionate towards the small blonde man before him.
“Of course you can,” Bucky told him, grinning so wide he could feel his nose wrinkle. “I wouldn’t say no to such a request. And besides, seeing as they like you so much, I wouldn’t deny them meeting you again. They’re not actually my birds, after all.”
After Bucky made lunch, they went back to lazing around by the fire, Steve still reading The Martian and Bucky playing games on his laptop. When Steve finished the book a few hours later, Bucky suggested they watch the movie, so they curled up side-by-side on the couch to watch it on the laptop while the storm continued its rampage outside.
Steve dozed off towards the end of the movie, still curled up the way he was when he was awake, with the blanket wrapped tightly around his thin frame. Bucky smiled fondly at the adorable sight for a few moments before he recognized what he was feeling.
Bucky was starting to get a goddamn crush on Steve, and he’d barely known him a single day.
He was screwed, and yet, at that moment, he also didn’t care. Instead, he reluctantly left Steve’s side so he could go reheat the stew for dinner, glad that there was enough left for a couple more nights.
Steve started stirring when the scent of the stew began to fill the house, adding another layer of warmth to that of the fire. He didn’t fully wake up, though, until Bucky brought the bowls over and nudged him awake.
“Whaddya want?” He slurred, rubbing the sleep from his eyes.
Bucky chuckled, handing him the bowl. “I come bearing food. Same stew from last night, I hope you don’t mind.”
“You’re lucky it’s good or I might not’ve been so nice.” Steve happily took the bowl from him, digging in instantly. “Even better than last night, thank you.”
“You’re welcome, I guess.” Bucky was a little surprised at himself to find that he actually liked grumpy Steve. He found it adorable… Not that he’d ever let Steve know that, of course. He settled beside him and began his dinner.
While they were eating, the power flickered a few times. Bucky cursed, jumping up and running around the house to unplug as many appliances that he could find, hoping there wouldn’t be a power surge that’d fry his electronics.
Just as he unplugged the last thing, the power went out completely. The fire lit up the living room and kitchen enough to see by for the most part, but it’d be pitch black in the bedrooms and bathroom. Bucky groaned and ran a hand through his hair, cursing the storm.
“I guess I’d better go and find some candles.” He muttered, heading into the kitchen and fumbling around in the drawers until he found a flashlight. “You can keep eating. I’ll only be a few minutes.”
“If you say so…” Steve stayed put, but didn’t touch his food.
Bucky refrained from rolling his eyes and headed down the hall to his bedroom, knowing that he had some candles and trying to remember where he’d put them. They weren’t in the drawers full of random junk beside his bed, nor were they on his mostly unused dresser. He continued searching until he discovered them still in their original packing deep inside his closet.
At least the candles being unused meant they’d last longer. Bucky had never experienced a storm so big, let alone a blackout, during the time he’d lived in the house, so he had no idea what to expect.
A particularly jarring roll of thunder boomed overhead, so loud it shook the house, and Bucky almost jumped out of his skin from the sudden fright. He took a deep breath and headed out of his room with the candles. It wasn’t quite pitch black in the hallway, but Steve was so small that Bucky almost ran into him.
“What’re you doing over here?” Bucky asked, trying to stay calm from the additional scare. First the thunder and now this tiny man was sneaking around in the dark. “Did you finish your dinner, at least?”
They started heading back to the main living area, and with the growing light Bucky could see Steve’s eyebrows raised in what appeared to be amusement. Little shit.
“Uh, no, I just went to see what was taking you so long. Thought I might be able to help you look for the candles or something.” He shrugged a little, trying to seem casual.
Bucky was touched.
“Um, yeah, can you get me the matches? They’re on the fireplace mantle.”
He grabbed the matches and headed back to Bucky, and they divided the candles up. There were six in total, and were supposed to burn for almost thirty hours each, so Bucky hoped it was enough. He placed two in his and Steve’s bedrooms, one in the bathroom, and one in the hallway.
Bucky made them both head back to finish their dinner once they’d finished lighting the candles, not caring that the food would be cold. He wanted to make sure that Steve ate properly while he was staying there, especially with the horrible weather.
“Are you okay?” Steve asked when Bucky did the dishes in cold water. He’d been silent while they finished eating and Steve had started to worry. He’d seen how on edge Bucky had been after that bad thunderclap, and wanted to do everything in his power to make it okay.
“Yeah, I’m all good.” Bucky shot an unconvincing smile over his shoulder as he pulled the plug from the sink. When Steve simply raised his brows, Bucky seemed to hunch in on himself. “Fine. I’m usually okay with storms, but I’m also usually alone and not having to worry about someone else. We’ll be alright, though, just let me know if you start getting too cold or anything.”
Steve nodded. “I will. So, does this lack of power mean no more movies?”
“Unless I want my laptop to die, then yeah.” Glad for the change in subject, Bucky leaned against the counter and smirked at Steve. “So, we can either go to bed early and stare at the roof until we fall asleep…”
Bucky’s smirk widened. “Or we can spend a romantic evening reading by firelight.” Even in the low light, he noticed the way Steve’s pupils seemed to widen at the suggestion, and that knowledge made his gut twist much like it had the night before.
“It’s a hard choice.” Steve grinned, though the croak in his deep voice betrayed his feelings.
“Come on.” Bucky took Steve’s hand and dragged him over to his bookcase. “I’ve got plenty more sci-fi novels for you. You like Michael Crichton?”
“Never heard of him.” Steve hoped he wasn’t super famous and well-known, though from what he knew of humans, some of them weren’t particularly knowledgeable when it came to literature.
Bucky’s eyes widened comically and he immediately grabbed a book from the shelf. “Okay, fair enough. All you really need to know is that he’s the guy who wrote the Jurassic Park novels. But you should start with Sphere.”
“Thanks, I’m sure it’ll be good.” Steve took the book and grinned, quickly reading the summary on the back to get an idea of what it was about.
“Oh, it will be.”
Bucky grabbed a well-worn book from the top shelf and headed to the couch, getting comfortable. Steve followed, and snuggled into the blanket that he’d left there. Despite the fire, he was really starting to feel the cold and enjoyed wrapping himself in the extra layer. He briefly wondered if Bucky might be cold too, and if he should offer the blanket, but Bucky seemed content on his armchair, so Steve shrugged it off and lost himself in the book.
They read for hours, the light from the fire growing ever dimmer while the storm continued on its rampage. Bucky was glad there had been no more severe thunder, and was even amused to see Steve starting to doze off as he read.
“Hey, you ready to head to bed?” He asked, sliding off his armchair to kneel on the ground in front of Steve, whose head snapped up at the interruption.
“Nah, I’m fine.” He waved Bucky off and showed that he still had a fair bit to go. “This book is too good to stop. I’ll go to sleep when I’m ready.”
“Mm-hmm,” Bucky settled onto the couch beside Steve, but made sure to keep an eye on him. He noticed the way Steve’s exposed hands shook slightly, either from sleepiness or the cold air, and it worried him a little. “Hey, I really think I should get you to bed.”
“I said I’m fine,” Steve repeated, and with a moody pout went back to reading.
Bucky groaned inwardly, wondering how someone could be so stubborn. Sure, he could be a bit stubborn as well, which is why he scooted over so that his side was pressed up against Steve’s, hoping the extra warmth would help. He thought Steve was too tired to notice for a moment, but the small smile that graced his features told him otherwise. Bucky smiled as well, pleased.
Barely twenty minutes had gone by before Steve finally dozed off, head falling gracelessly to Bucky’s shoulder. Bucky grinned fondly down at the blonde hair that tickled his neck, then quickly finished off the chapter he was reading. When he was done, he carefully picked Steve up, still wrapped in the blanket, and took him to his room.
The power was still out the next morning, but Bucky had a gas stove that could be lit with a match when the electronic ignition wasn’t working. He’d already gone through the task of boiling pots of water and lugging them to the bath so he could wash himself without freezing, and had started on making breakfast after he was clean.
All the food in the fridge would be spoiled by then, so he figured that they would have to make do with toast, until he remembered that the toaster obviously wouldn’t work. Frustrated, Bucky searched through his pantry for something appropriate. He finally found a bottle of shake ‘n bake pancake mix that only needed water added to it.
Steve woke up just as Bucky finished the pancakes, pouring syrup over them. He looked like he’d barely gotten any sleep, dark rings present under his half-lidded eyes.
“Mornin’,” he mumbled out, dragging himself onto one of the stools and slumped over the bench. He looked puzzled as he eyed the freshly cooked pancakes. “I thought the power was still out.”
Bucky grinned and slid one of the plates over. “It is. I’m just lucky enough to have a gas stove. When you’re done I’ll boil some water so you can have a bath.”
“Sounds good.” He nodded tiredly and started eating, perking up just a little at the taste. “Mm, these are good.”
“Thanks.” Bucky grinned, again pleased that Steve seemed to approve of his cooking, Even though all he did was pour water into the bottle and shake the mix into batter. It was basically cheating.
“What are these, anyway?”
The question caught Bucky off guard, and the smile slowly slid off his face. What did Steve mean, what are they? He was pretty sure every person in the Western world knew what a pancake was. “They’re pancakes. Have… Have you never had them before?”
“Uh, no. I haven’t.” Steve blushed and ducked his head, embarrassed by his confession.
There had to be a rational explanation, so Bucky told himself Steve probably grew up in one of those old-fashioned families that lived in the middle of nowhere and abhorred anything modern. They had to exist, and if that’s who Steve was running from, then he couldn’t say he blamed him.
Bucky managed to finish eating before Steve, who was taking his time, and started boiling the water for his bath. It was a slow process, so he didn’t mind getting a head start. But after the first pot was boiled and taken to the bath, Bucky found himself worrying over Steve, who still seemed half-asleep, one hand propping up his head while he ate.
“Didn’t sleep well?” Bucky asked, quickly refilling the pot and putting it on the stove to boil.
Steve looked up and shrugged. “I slept great, actually. I’m just so tired anyway. Probably the weather.”
“Hmm, maybe.” Bucky wasn’t entirely convinced, but let the subject drop. A bath might wake Steve up, and he had also felt a little lethargic the day before. “Keep eating, your bath will be ready soon enough.”
Steve did, and then filled the bath with the cold tap water while Bucky finished boiling the last pot. While Steve was washing, Bucky went through his closet and found some more warm clothes for Steve to wear, though again they would be too big.
The storm continued on outside, but it seemed more sluggish than the day before. There were dimmer flashes of lightning, and low rumbles of thunder that were only a little louder than the rain. Bucky peeked out the window and groaned at the ocean of mud surrounding his house.
He headed to the fridge and started going through it, getting rid of all the spoiled food. He poured the sour milk down the drain, trying not to gag at the smell, while feeling grateful that he always bought long-life milk and had a few more cartons in the pantry for when the power went back on. When he got to the stew, he was sad to see it go. There was still enough for maybe one or two nights, but he didn’t want to risk getting himself or Steve sick.
When Steve came out wearing the fresh clothes and wrapped in the spare blanket, he looked as tired as ever. His wet hair dripped onto his sweatshirt and Bucky sighed, throwing an arm over his thin shoulders.
“Come on, I’ll go start the fire.” He said, walking him to the living room.
“You don’t have to treat me like an infant.” Steve scowled, but he didn’t move out from under Bucky’s arm until he got to the couch. “I know I’m small and skinny, but that doesn’t mean you have to act like my mother.”
Bucky smirked and held out his hands in surrender, the one glove on his left hand making it stand out. “Sorry, your highness, for trying to be a good host. But it’s still storming outside and the last thing I need is you getting sick. Get used to it.”
“Whatever.” Steve pouted at Bucky, though the way he snuggled down into the blanket ruined the effect. Bucky laughed and Steve poked out his tongue at him childishly.
Bucky poked his tongue out as well, then went about lighting the fire. He left Steve to get comfortable on the couch, wanting to see if his laptop had enough power to use. It didn’t. The wifi was down, so there’d have been no internet anyway, and his phone had died the night before, making Bucky resent the short battery life.
Steve was passed out on the couch again when Bucky went back to the living room, and he wished he could manage the same. He was so bored . Stuck inside with no technology and the only person to talk to fast asleep didn’t give Bucky very many options. He’d already cleaned out the fridge, so he decided that cleaning the rest of the house would be better than sitting around doing nothing.
Bucky had managed to clean his bedroom and the bathroom before his stomach demanded food. Steve was still asleep, so he made some peanut butter sandwiches and wrapped one up for when Steve woke.
He decided to make another stew that could slow cook for a few hours and be ready by the time it was dinner. He wished some of the meat had survived the blackout, but he couldn’t be too upset when he at least had beef stock and plenty of veggies. Steve woke up while it was cooking and ate the sandwich, then they read on the couch together to kill time.
At least Steve didn’t seem upset at the lack of electronics. He was content to relax and read by the fire until the stew was ready. Bucky only made enough for the night, not having any way to store the leftovers. Steve was in a much better mood during dinner, but he didn’t seem any more rested than before.
“How are you feeling?” Bucky asked once they were back on the couch.
Steve shrugged, unconsciously leaning towards Bucky beside him. “Still tired, I guess. Don’t know why.”
“Maybe you’re already sick…” Bucky scooted even closer and pressed his right hand to Steve’s forehead. “A little warm, but nothing alarming. You did just eat.”
“Yeah, that and I’m wrapped in a blanket near a fire.” Steve shot him a small half-smile, trying to convey that he wasn’t sick, just tired.
“You have a good point.” Bucky grinned back, and stayed where he was, just letting himself relax and not worry about anything.
Steve was reading again, another Michael Crichton book this time, and Bucky found himself fascinated by the way Steve lost himself in the story. He felt a little creepy to be watching him, but he wasn’t being subtle about it, and Steve had to have noticed whether he was tired or not. But Steve said nothing and just kept reading, so Bucky continued watching the way Steve’s face reacted to what he read. A twitch of his mouth, a widening of his eyes, a crease in his brow. Bucky loved it all.
That’s when he found himself developing feelings for Steve that went well beyond just a simple crush. And he realized, with a sudden clarity, that he didn’t really want Steve to go. He wanted the weather to clear up and Steve to stay so he could get to know him more. To be with him.
It was safe to say Bucky was screwed.
When Bucky woke up to a gentle patter of rain on his roof and rays of sunshine through his window, he couldn’t hold back his grin. And when he turned on his lamp and it actually lit up, he wanted to jump with joy.
He went around the house and plugged in all the electronics, then had the hottest shower he could handle. His coffee was hot, as was his breakfast, and he made a lot of it. Toast with avocado, tomato, and mushrooms, and a side of porridge as well. He made a serving for Steve, expecting him to wake up around the time breakfast was done like usual, but he didn’t.
Bucky shrugged it off and ate his breakfast alone. Steve still wasn’t awake. He went back to his room and replied to his texts from Nat and Clint, asking if he was okay. He explained that he lost power because of the storm but was fine, and was sorry if he worried them. Then he turned on his laptop and checked his emails and messages, replying to one from his sister who wanted to visit in a month with her husband.
Steve still wasn’t awake.
Worry twisted Bucky’s gut when he realized he’d been up for almost two hours and Steve had yet to wake. He knew how tired he’d been, but the amount of rest he’d gotten should’ve been enough. Bucky had to go check on him. He tried to be quiet, opening the door slowly and peeking in. The curtains weren’t closed all the way and the room was lit up, letting Bucky see Steve’s form clearly. He couldn’t believe his eyes.
Steve’s skin had a slight green hue to it, just noticeable enough with the direct stream of sunlight hitting his bare face. At first Bucky thought it was because he was sick, but when he ventured closer, he saw that it was simply him. His hair was also different; still blonde, but it looked like each strand was made of actual gold.
It was shocking, to say the least, but it didn’t override Bucky’s concern. His skin tone didn’t matter, green or not, when he was still worried about Steve’s health, and as much as he knew sleep was good for him, he knew that food was too.
“Steve, hey.” Bucky shook his shoulder gently, trying to rouse him. “Come on, Stevie, you need to wake up.”
Steve mumbled something incoherently, opening his eyes in a squint. Bucky’s breath caught in his throat as yet another part of Steve’s appearance took him by surprise - his blue eyes were almost glowing, inhumanly bright and beautiful.
“Go away, Buck.” Steve grumbled, halfheartedly swatting his hand away. “I’m tryna sleep.”
Bucky shook his head. “You’ve slept long enough, now you gotta eat.”
He pulled Steve out of bed and they headed back to the kitchen, Steve wrapped in the blanket again, with Bucky constantly glancing back and watching as Steve’s stunning new appearance gradually returned to normal. Bucky had left Steve’s food in the oven to keep it warm, and made him a coffee while he ate.
“The power back on?” Steve asked, eyeing the electronics Bucky had been using in the kitchen.
“Yeah, thank God.” Bucky grinned and poured himself his own second cup of coffee. He knew he had to tell Steve about what he saw. It wouldn’t be fair to hide that he did. “So, uh, there’s something I need to tell you.”
Steve paused with his fork halfway to his mouth, letting it fall back to his plate, forgotten. “What is it?”
Bucky took a deep breath, mentally preparing himself. “When I went to wake you up, I saw something. I mean, you looked different.” He didn’t meet Steve’s eyes, wringing his hands in anticipation. How would this conversation go? Bucky could only think of the ways it could go wrong.
“Different how?” Steve tried not to show any reaction to Bucky’s words, but he subconsciously tightened his shoulders and clenched his jaw. He wasn’t angry, he was scared. Steve, too, was wondering how this would end. He knew already what Bucky had seen, but he had to hear it for himself.
“Your skin looked a little green, and your hair looked like gold…” Bucky paused, gauging Steve’s reaction. There was none. “And when you opened your eyes, they were such a bright blue that I thought they might be glowing. By the time we got to the kitchen, you were back to normal.”
“Oh, you really saw all of that, huh?” Steve sighed, resigned, though there was still a nervous twist to his mouth and a weight that seemed to settle on his shoulders. Bucky was once again hit by how exhausted he looked, but this time there seemed to be a weariness to him that went beyond the physical.
Bucky was overcome by the need to reassure Steve that it was fine. That he liked him no matter how he looked. “I did see all that, and I need you to know that it’s okay. I don’t know why you looked that way, but it’s not going to change my opinion of you.”
“No,” Steve agreed, but shook his head sadly. Bucky was about to question why he still seemed down about the revelation when Steve continued. “But the real reason I’m here will.”
Bucky suddenly didn’t want to know, if it meant Steve would be upset. He didn’t want Steve to feel forced into telling him. “You don’t have to tell me, you know. You don’t owe me an explanation.”
“But I do!” Steve almost shouted, spots of red forming high on his cheeks. He set his jaw stubbornly, staring Bucky in the eyes. “You’ve been nothing but kind to me, even though you knew I lied. You took me in, lent me clothes, fed me, and kept me warm. You gave me books to read and when the power was out, you still went out of your way to help. When you thought I was sick, you showed concern. I didn’t deserve any of this, but you gave it anyway. So telling you why I’m really here is the least I can do. And I know what I say won’t be very believable, and you might think I’m lying again and get angry, but I have to let you know anyway.”
Bucky was shocked at his little outburst, but he knew he should hear him out anyway. It was the least he could do. “I’ll believe you, I swear.”
“You say that now…” Steve still looked as defiant as ever, but his eyes were glistening with the promise of tears. “I’m not human, Bucky. What you saw before is my real form. I’m a faery.”
“Wait, faery? What do you mean you're a faery?” Bucky interrupted without thinking, brows drawn together. He had no idea what he expected to hear, but it wasn’t that. “I thought faeries were tiny little creatures with wings that grant wishes.”
Steve had the audacity to roll his eyes. “You’re thinking of pixies, except they don’t grant wishes. Humans made that up.” He narrowed his eyes at Bucky. “Are you going to let me continue?”
“Yes, sorry. Go on.”
“The fae world is separate from the human word, but sometimes there are places where they cross over, and one of them is quite close to here. I was curious, and started to venture to this world and observe the humans. For the last few months I’ve been visiting here, going to the town a few times, learning all I could, but mostly I just watched you.”
Bucky thought he should feel disgusted or angry or at least freaked out by the confession, but he didn’t. He was glad Steve had noticed him; had chosen to watch him.
“You… You’re not going to get mad about that?” Steve asked, looking sheepish.
Bucky shrugged. “I’ve been watching you while you read, so it’d be hypocritical of me to get angry.”
“Oh, okay.” Steve grinned, though there was still a hint of lingering fear in his eyes. “So I’d been watching you, and the way you interacted with the crows. You fascinated me, and I wanted to get to know you for real. The other day, when we met, I’d meant to tell you the truth then and there… but I was a coward and backed out at the last second. I didn’t think you’d believe me. I mean, I still don’t. But I got to know you anyway, and you’re nothing short of amazing, and I knew that I owed you the truth. I’m sorry for lying, Bucky, I really am.”
Bucky felt his cheeks warm at Steve’s praise, smiling a little shyly. “I believe you, Steve. Seriously. I mean, it’s so far-fetched that it has to be true. And anyway, I saw how different you looked with my own eyes. It wasn’t something that could be faked.”
Steve let out a deep breath, radiating relief. “I should finish my breakfast now, shouldn’t I?”
“I think that’d be a good idea,” Bucky laughed, heading for the living room. He started the fire before returning to the kitchen. “Because the power’s back on, feel free to have a hot shower when you finish eating.”
Steve looked up, mouth full of food. He quickly swallowed it down. “Oh, that reminds me. Faeries aren’t as sensitive to the cold as humans are.”
“Are you sure about that?” Bucky eyed the blanket draped around Steve’s shoulders and raised an eyebrow.
Steve blushed, bright red warming his face and neck. “I don’t know why, but since the storm hit I’ve been colder than normal. The clothes I came here in are what I’d usually wear when the weather is this temperature. Though I should’ve prepared for the storm better.”
Did he just imply what Bucky thought he did? “You knew there was a storm coming?”
“Uh-huh…” Steve blushed even redder and ducked his head. “I figured it’d be harder for you to send me away if it was storming. You’re too nice.”
Bucky burst into laughter, amused by how much thought Steve had put into his pursuit to get to know him. “You little punk. What if I’d been an asshole?”
“But you weren’t! You aren’t !” Steve pouted a little, then under his breath, muttered, “But you are a jerk.”
“I heard that.”
Bucky laughed even harder. “Go have a shower, cranky-pants.”
“Fine.” Steve popped the last bite of his food into his mouth and slid off the stool… and onto the ground. His legs had collapsed underneath him, leaving him a groaning puddle on the floor.
“Shit, are you alright?” Bucky knelt on the ground beside him and helped him get up. “God, Steve, you can barely stand properly. Are you sure you’re not sick?”
Steve pulled away from Bucky and took a few slow steps towards the bathroom. “Look, I’m fine. I don’t know how many times I have to tell you. I’m just a little tired, that’s all.”
“Okay, well, shout if you need me. Promise?”
“Promise.” Steve gave him a reassuring smile then headed off to the bathroom.
Bucky hoped Steve was really okay. He figured he could take him to see a doctor if he wasn’t, but a quick look outside showed that wouldn’t be possible. Despite the sun shining, it was still raining outside, and there was river of mud blocking him from his car, so deep it almost fully submerged the tires. Hell, the mud even flooded the first couple of steps up his porch.
Besides that, would he even be able to take Steve to see a human doctor? Was his physiology so different as a faery that they’d freak out or want to study him? Even if the weather was fine and the mud was gone, Bucky couldn’t take that risk.
With a resigned sigh, Bucky headed to his room and found Steve some more clothes to wear like usual. If he couldn’t take him to a doctor, then he was going to try his damn hardest to get Steve better himself. But for now, he would wash the dishes and wait for Steve to finish showering.
Which is what he was doing when it suddenly hit him that Steve was a faery. He knew, deep down, that he wouldn’t have believed it if he hadn’t seen it himself. He’d have thought Steve was feverish and not thinking straight, a side-effect of being ill. But he was starting to know Steve, and he knew that he wouldn’t have let Bucky not believe him without a fight. He probably would’ve intentionally shown him the green skin and gold hair so Bucky would know he was telling the truth.
Bucky looked down at his gloved hand, wondering if he should tell Steve about his arm. He liked Steve, a lot more than he thought he should, and Steve had been so honest and open with him. It was only fair that Bucky tell him about his secret part of himself.
And, as if on cue, Steve finished his shower. Bucky paced back and forth while he waited for him to get dried and dressed, willing himself to not back out. He wanted to tell Steve about his arm, but it was still a sensitive subject for him. Only his therapist saw it regularly, and Nat and Clint had seen it a few times, but that was mostly by accident.
“What are you doing?” Steve asked, breaking into Bucky’s troubled thoughts.
“You were honest with me, so I think I should be honest with you.” Bucky tried to smile and failed, too nervous for the motion. He headed to the couch and plopped himself down heavily and stared at his hand. “It’s not exactly a secret, but it’s something I hide from people. You said you wanted to get to know me, and you have, but not all of me.”
Bucky pulled the glove off before he could change his mind, then pushed his sleeve up. The reflective metal of his arm looked beautiful when lit by the light of the fire, but Bucky still felt the melancholy chill of missing his flesh arm whenever he saw it.
He watched Steve closely for a reaction, and honestly didn’t know what to think. Steve’s jaw actually dropped, before slowing pulling into an awed grin. He didn’t look at it like a deformity or something to be ashamed of, like some people did. Others only saw Bucky’s disability; the fact that he was missing an arm. But Steve saw more than that. He saw the beauty of the arm. He saw that it enhanced Bucky, that it allowed him to be whole again. He saw that it was there to help, not hinder. That it was a miracle of technology.
“Can I ask why?” Steve asked, and Bucky was grateful that Steve was giving him the option to say no. But he’d already planned on telling the story.
“Of course,” Bucky nodded. “A few years ago I was driving home in the rain when a drunk driver lost control of their car and it collided with mine. We both tumbled down a ditch and I lost my arm in the process, but I was lucky. The other guy lost his life.” Bucky twisted his hand, letting Steve see the way the light reflected off the plates. “Tony Stark approached me when I was in hospital, claiming to be a friend of a friend, and wanted to know if I was down to try some experimental prosthetics he’d been working on. I said yes, and after a year and a half of trials I was left with this. It’s currently the most advanced prosthetic in the world, and it’s one of a kind. Stark is currently trying to mass-produce a more natural looking version for a wider market. One that has the same appearance as a normal human arm.”
Steve’s eyes were wide with awe as he scooted closer to get a better look at the arm. “I could tell it wasn’t organic, but I had no idea you’d lost your real arm. I’m so sorry.”
“It’s okay. I’m still coming to terms with it all, but like I said, I was the lucky one.” Bucky shrugged, looking to change the subject now that everything was all out in the open. “You said you could sense it wasn’t organic?”
“Oh, yeah. That’s one of the things that comes with being a faery, I guess. We’re in tune with nature, so when we’re in the human world, man-made objects stand out to us. I was curious about your arm, but didn’t think it was my place to pry. Thank you for telling me, though. You didn’t have to.”
“Just like you didn’t have to tell me you were a faery.” Bucky grinned, shaking his head at the absurdity of his life. “I’m a human with a cybernetic arm and crows for friends, and you’re a faery with an interest in my world. We’re an odd couple.”
Steve gave Bucky a dopey smile, resting his head on the back of the couch. “We are.”
Bucky felt his heart skip a beat, and knew he needed to distract himself. “We should watch a movie now that the power is back.” He got up and headed to his room, coming back a minute later with his laptop. “Now that I know you’re a faery, there’s so many movies I think you should watch and I don’t even know where to start.”
“Well, are any of the other books I read movies as well?” Steve gestured to the coffee table, where he’d left the two Michael Crichton books he’d read.
“Shit, yes. As far as I’m concerned, Jurassic Park is a classic!”
Bucky went and made some microwave popcorn to snack on, and then the two of them settled in to watch the movie, Steve curling up against Bucky’s side.
Steve barely made it to dinner that night, almost completely overpowered with lethargy. They’d had lunch after the movie, then watched the sequels after that. He’d been content to do nothing more, and while Bucky enjoyed having Steve nested tightly by his side, he was also starting to feel restless with worry.
Even as he ate, Steve seemed to be having trouble keeping his eyes open and his head aloft. Bucky started thinking that maybe he was to blame. Was he feeding Steve the right food? What did faeries even eat? He hadn’t yet complained, but maybe it wasn’t organic enough. With that in mind, Bucky chopped some fruit up and gave it to Steve when it became apparent that the dinner wasn’t helping his lethargic state in any way.
“Come on, Stevie. Just eat this and see how you feel,” Bucky pleaded, starting to feel hopeful when Steve perked up a little after the first few mouthfuls. He managed to finish off the bowl, and appeared to be more energetic. It was nothing like he’d been when he had arrived, but it was better than before. Bucky knew he needed to take advantage of that energy. “Hey, let’s do some stretches. You’ve been sitting all day.”
“Sure.” Steve smiled, happy to play along with whatever Bucky suggested.
Bucky lead them both through a few of the simple exercises his physical therapist had given him when he’d been adjusting to his new arm. It’d been a few months since he’d done them, but it felt natural to go back into the positions. Steve seemed to be following along well, for which Bucky was grateful, but it only lasted a few minutes before Steve started showing signs of fatigue again. His movements became sloppy and after a while he stopped being able to do them altogether.
“I’m sorry, Buck. I don’t know what’s wrong with me…” Steve sighed and dropped to the ground, hunching over with exhaustion. Even his voice sounded breathy and tired as his eyelids started to droop. “I usually have more energy… I promise…”
Bucky kneeled beside Steve and shook his head quickly. “No, don’t apologize. You can’t help it. But I think I should get you to bed before you pass out on the floor there. Sound good?”
“Mm-hmm.” Steve smiled sleepily and let himself be picked up from Bucky and be carried in his arms to his room. The motion of Bucky’s steps started lulling him off to sleep, and he burrowed his face into Bucky’s neck, humming contentedly. “This is nice, Buck... you’re so nice. I think I might love you…”
Bucky paused for a moment, shocked at the sleepy confession from Steve. He looked down at the man, now out cold in his arms, and thought for a moment. With enough time, he might just fall in love with Steve as well.
Though he knew the information may not be correct, Bucky’s online research about faeries that he’d done before bed the night before had told him that iron was a faery repellent. Some sources said it was only iron weapons, while some stated it was any item with iron in it. Bucky thought of the cast iron skillet he cooked with, and all of the electronics too.
Was his house making Steve so sick? There was only one way for him to find out.
The weather was finally clearing up that morning. The rain had stopped and the sky was scattered with clouds, but the ocean of mud was still present. Bucky knew he had to take Steve outside for the day to see if it made him a little better, and would just have to dig out his old rain boots and put up with the mud.
Bucky showered and drank his coffee in record time, before going to check up on Steve. The blinds were closed this time, and Bucky tiptoed through the dark room to the bedside. Even by the low light he could see how much worse Steve looked. His skin wasn’t green this time, but a dull gray that sent a panicked jolt through Bucky. He was sweating, too, and when Bucky placed his flesh hand on Steve’s forehead, he was burning up with a fever. Steve's quickly deteriorating health was more than concerning.
“Shit.” Not knowing what else to do, Bucky threw off the blanket and picked Steve up bridal-style, carrying him out of the room.
He slipped his feet into the rain boots he’d left by the door after he’d checked the weather earlier, and headed straight outside and down into the mud. He had no idea where to take Steve. Even without the mud, the car would be a definite no. The town wasn’t a good idea either. So, with no other options, Bucky headed into the woods.
There were no paths, as far as he knew. Bucky had gone exploring a few times, but never wandered too far in case he lost his way. His phone had a GPS, of course, but the reception could get a bit spotty out in the woods. Right then, though, he didn’t care if he got lost. When Bucky cared for someone, he cared deeply, so he would do whatever it took to get Steve better.
Steve started to rouse just then, blinking awake and tiredly taking in his surroundings, before looking up at Bucky. “Where’re we goin’?”
“Into nature,” Bucky replied, sending Steve a hopeful smile. “Gotta get you away from all the iron in my house.”
“Iron?” Steve looked confused, though Bucky figured it was due to his fever.
Bucky nodded. “Yeah, I looked it up online and apparently iron is harmful to your kind, and my house is full of it. I’m so sorry. If I’d known beforehand, I would’ve done better to keep it away from you.”
“Oh, you silly human.” Steve chuckled weakly, with a slight shake of his head. “That’s another myth about my kind. Not sure how it came about, but iron doesn’t hurt us.”
Bucky stopped suddenly and just stood there with Steve in his arms, feeling all the energy drain out of his body. He started to sag, but straightened again quickly, not wanting to drop Steve.
“I have no idea what to do then,” he admitted, twisting his mouth into a grimace. “I have no idea how to help you, Steve, I’m so sorry.”
Steve managed to raise his hand and hold it to Bucky’s face, lightly caressing his stubbled cheek with his thumb. “Hey, it’s okay, Buck. I know you would help if you could, and that’s all that matters to me.”
Bucky leaned into his hand and sighed, holding Steve’s body closer to his. Time went by slowly as they stayed like that, unmoving, until the familiar caws of Bucky’s crows sounded nearby. Both men perked up and glanced around until they saw the birds descend from the treetops, flying down to greet them. They hopped along low branches and cawed some more, before moving to a branch further away. Bucky followed along, wondering why they kept moving away as soon as he caught up to them.
“They’re leading us somewhere,” Steve noted with a hint of awe. Both birds squawked as if confirming this, then continued on their way, Bucky trailing close behind.
He didn’t know where they were leading him, but wherever it was seemed to have a positive effect on Steve. The grey in his skin started to fade, while his hair started to glisten and his eyes sparkled and brightened until they appeared to glow. Bucky knew it was a good sign, even if he didn’t know why. Steve seemed to get an idea soon enough, though.
He looked up at Bucky with an excited grin. “You remember when I told you there was a place where our worlds crossed over?”
“Yeah, I remember...” Bucky looked around at the surrounding nature, noting that the trees and ferns seemed like they were thrumming with energy. “Are we there?”
“Not yet, but soon.” Steve closed his eyes and, with a pleased smile, snuggled into Bucky’s chest.
He was right - only a minute later the birds stopped inside a very small meadow, where the colors were more intense and the air felt clearer. He set Steve down, trusting that he could support his own weight now that he appeared to be getting better. He was still a little unsteady, but didn’t need any more help.
Bucky watched as Steve walked around the meadow, so small that he was basically turning in a circle. He breathed deeply, inhaling the clean air, before removing his sweatshirt and handing it back to Bucky.
“Thank you, but I won’t be needing this for much longer.” Steve’s smile was sad now, and it made Bucky’s insides twist with worry.
He bypassed the sweatshirt and reached instead for Steve’s outstretched hand. “What do you mean? What’s going on?”
“I have to go back to my world now. I think leaving it for so long is why I’m so weak, and I won’t fully heal until I am there.”
“Then I’ll go with you,” Bucky insisted, still holding on to Steve’s hand as if it were his lifeline. He’d grown attached to him in such a short time, and he didn’t want Steve to leave without him.
“I’m so sorry, Bucky, but you won’t be able to come with me.” Steve hung his head, shamed, as if sharing this news was worse than anything he’d ever done before. “Humans have come to my world before, but the time they spent there always broke their minds. We don’t know why… but I can’t risk that happening with you. I’m sorry.”
Bucky didn’t know what to say. His heart beat a mile a minute, and his eyes prickled with tears. He couldn’t believe he was going to cry over Steve leaving when he’d only known him a few days, but that was what was happening and he could do nothing to stop it.
“So this is it, then?” Bucky managed to get the words out, biting his lip at the thought of goodbye. “You go back to your world and I stay in mine.”
Steve laughed and shook his head. “No! Well, yes, but not forever. I just need to heal, Buck, but then I’ll be back to pester you some more.”
“You’re not a pest.” Bucky wiped his eyes and grinned back, feeling the heat rush to his cheeks at how emotional he was.
“Look at you, crying over me.” Steve held Bucky’s face in his hands and wiped the tears away. “I don’t know when I’ll be back, but I will, I promise. Will you wait for me?”
Bucky nodded. “As long as it takes.”
“Good.” Steve got up on his toes and kissed Bucky then, short and sweet, before breaking apart and blushing furiously. “See you soon, then.”
Then he passed through a small gap in the trees and was gone.
Bucky stayed in the meadow for minutes or hours, he had no idea. The knowledge that Steve would come back gave him hope, but he still wasn’t quite certain how to spend his time until then. Sure, he could just do what he did before Steve and the storm took over his life, but the thought of that was saddening. He wanted to do those things with Steve.
The crows kept him company, so when he got up to leave after his stomach started to protest, they were there to lead him home. Bucky knew he would’ve likely gotten lost without them, so rather than wallow in his sadness, he went inside and grabbed them some of the chilies he still had left, along with some lunch for himself. But when he eventually wanted to be alone, it seemed they understood and flew off.
Steve’s clothes were still in the spare room, which now smelled like him. Bucky was suddenly angry at himself for being such a downer, so he hastily stripped the sheets off the bed and washed everything, not in an attempt to erase Steve’s lingering presence, but to put a sense of normality back into his life. He put the books Steve had read back on the bookshelf, and tidied the couch cushions that had been pushed around. He made dinner alone and ate it alone.
Not knowing when Steve would return put Bucky on edge, but he couldn’t stop himself from going back to the meadow the next day, or the day after that… or the day after that as well. It was true that Steve had been weak and feverish and needed to heal, but being near his world was enough to bring so much of his energy back that Bucky didn’t think it’d take too long. But a week went by with no sign of Steve, and Bucky was starting to lose hope.
He finally went into town and replaced all the food that he’d lost during the blackout, then contacted Clint and Nat to see if they’d like to visit. They agreed quickly, unsure of why he was so sad but wanting to be there for him anyway.
They stayed for a few days, and Bucky allowed himself the distraction. Clint and Nat made him go into town to have a few drinks at the local bar, and then to a town even further away to see a new movie at the cinema. He had fun, he really did, but his mind couldn’t stop going back to thoughts of the small blonde man who he was missing more and more with each passing day.
When Clint and Nat finally left, the first thing Bucky did was head back to the little meadow. He was worried that Steve had potentially come back in the time he’d been with his friends and gotten upset that Bucky wasn’t there, but Bucky knew Steve would’ve waited for him at his house if that were the case, just like the time they met.
He was halfway to the meadow when his crows approached, cawing happily. Bucky knew there would be reason for their excitement, and felt optimistic about what he might find. He wasn’t let down.
There, lying in among the vines and ferns of the meadow, was Steve, the dappled sunlight shining through the leaves of trees highlighting his greenish skin and golden hair. He looked so relaxed and peaceful and healthy, that Bucky was absolutely overwhelmed with joy. He quietly made his way into the meadow, not wanting to disturb the tranquility of the scene before him, and knelt on one knee beside Steve. On instinct, he slowly reached out to hold Steve’s hand in his own, but stopped himself lest he wake him up.
Bucky sat there for a few minutes, content to simply watch the light rise and fall of Steve’s chest, and the light flutter of his hair in the soft breeze. It was impossible to think of Steve as anything but magical.
Eventually Steve opened his eyes slowly and smiled at Bucky, closing the distance between their hands so they were finally connected.
“Hi,” he whispered, interlocking their fingers as he spoke.
“Hi,” Bucky whispered back, afraid to break the atmosphere if he rose his voice. “You came back.”
Steve’s smile widened to a grin. “I said I would.” He raised himself off the ground and pulled Bucky into a tight embrace. Bucky melted into it, feeling the stress of not knowing where Steve was or when he’d return melting away.
Steve was back, just like he said he’d be. There were no more secrets, no more lies. Instead, there was an endless list of possibilities for the two of them. But first...
“Now that you’re here, I guess we’ve got no choice but to have to catch up on lost time.” Bucky pulled back and held Steve’s face in his hands, one gloved and one bare. “How does that sound?”
“Absolutely perfect.” Steve closed the distance between them and kissed Bucky with all the longing and want he felt for the man.
Bucky felt his heart fill with love for Steve, which was both a shock and yet unsurprising to him. He’d never believed it was possible to fall in love with someone so fast, but he’d also never believed in faeries either. Nothing about his situation was normal, but he wouldn’t have it any other way. He was Steve’s, for as long as Steve would have him, and Steve was his.
He put all of his newly realized love into the kiss, wanting Steve to know just how much he meant to Bucky. It was slow and heated, no need to rush now that they had all the time in the world. It meant they could share all the kisses they wanted, when they wanted, for the rest of time.
“I love you,” Steve confessed between kisses, almost as if the words came out without his consent.
Bucky grinned against Steve’s lips, having already known. “I love you, too, Stevie. I love you, too.”