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Demon's Run - Rewrite

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Demons aren’t what people think. Sitting on the park bench, watching the kids with their over-protective mothers or nannies, he contemplates his existence. See, he’s not what most demons are now, he’s a born demon, created by the same power that created those ridiculous flying fairies. In his very, very long existence, the only time he crossed paths with angels it didn’t go well. Okay, he killed the flying menaces, but, in his defense, the dicks had it coming. Shouting about abominations and purging the earth, what’s a demon to do?

One of the nannies is eyeing him up and it makes his skin crawl just thinking about a human touching him. By human standards, he is rather attractive, but he’s not human and only comes here to see if he can entice one into making a deal. That’s his shtick, making deals and collecting souls for the great hellish machine down below. Souls power everything down there.

Humans have this idea about heaven and hell, but the truth is, they aren’t all that different. Souls power heaven just like hell, the biggest difference is that in hell, the souls actually have fun doing it. They figured out not long after the war that if they kept the souls happy, they gave off more energy, unlike the travesty upstairs where those poor, unfortunate sloggers are caught in a loop of the same day of their lives over and over again. And because those daft miscreants running the place won’t let the human souls have ‘fun’ they need more of them to keep the place running.

Downstairs, however, those souls get to do anything that makes them happy and because of that, hell runs like a twenty-four hour nightclub. Energy to spare and everyone having one, pardon the pun, hell of a time. It’s always good to have backup though, hence the trip up top.

Demons have become deluded in recent millennia, so having a pureblood check up on them is always a good idea. He looks around, noticing that his charge is flirting with one of the moms. He runs the soul collecting department, which is the highest position a demon can hold. Well, there is one other position that’s higher, but no one talks about that guy anymore. He disappeared so long ago that no one remembers what he looked like. Many have pushed the collector of souls to fill the position, but he’s not really in the market to leave behind what he’s really good at.

Getting up, he makes his way over to his protégé, frowning because the guy has got to get his shit together before they scrap him and start over. Purebloods are few and far between because they don’t have the ability to create more. Sure, they could breed with each other, but there’s only five of them left, most having been wiped out in the war, so that’s not helpful. What they did decide to do, all those years ago, was to take some of the oldest human souls in hell or some of the more interesting ones and give them minimal powers. They are considered half breeds, but they get the job done. They are also tied to the pureblood that created them, so no overthrowing of the current status quo. They kill the pureblood, they kill every minor demon that pureblood created.

“Harrison, can I talk to you?” He puts on a pleasant smile for the mom, but Harrison knows he’s in trouble.

As they make their way to the fence, Harrison starts to explain. “Listen Boss, I’m sorry, but you see her, right? She’s so hot! I can’t believe she has a kid.”

His hand comes down on Harrison’s shoulder and he plasters the smile, the one that scares living shit out of everyone, even the other purebloods. “Son, I don’t really care how ‘hot’ you think she is, we are here to do a job.” Sighing, he closes his eyes for a second. “Listen, I know you like the humans and have even left your mark behind a few times, but we are here to make deals.”

Harrison blushes because in his short time as a demon he’s impregnated six different women. “Sorry Boss, I’ll do better.”

Walking away, he calls over his shoulder. “I’m going for pizza. I’ll meet you in Brooklyn later.”

 

Brooklyn is home base when he’s up top. He acquired a nice, three-story brownstone a few years back and when the borough went gentrified it skyrocketed in value. Not that he has any need for money, but it’s nice knowing he’s the envy of everyone in the neighborhood. His favorite pizza place is next to a small coffee house that opened not too long ago, but seems to be the ‘in’ place these days. He doesn’t have to eat, but it’s fun to enjoy the little things this human world has to offer.

After dinner, he makes the decision to try the coffee place, the name of the place makes him laugh. I mean who names their place Demon’s Run? Maybe one of his earlier protégé’s fathered the owner. It makes him laugh aloud thinking about it. He pulls the door open and steps into another world. It isn’t like those heinous Starbucks on every corner, it’s warm and fanciful, with music from the 1940’s playing softly in the background. The art on the wall is mystifying because it almost comes alive from the canvases. He walks over to one before he knows what he’s doing.

It’s all blacks, reds, and greys and it reminds him of the war. All but five of them had died in that war and if not for the creation of the minor demons, they would have been killed too. There are swirls of black that look like wings of those dicks, but red drips off of those in a representation of death. It’s the most powerful piece of art that he’s ever seen.

“You like this piece?” He didn’t even hear anyone come up behind him. When he spins around, he’s not at all prepared for what he comes face to face with.

Human existence is a means to an end for a demon. Demon’s need them because they need their souls after death. He’s never found one attractive, but this one, this one is special. “Uh, yeah. It’s very powerful.”

The human laughs softly. “Powerful is good. Most people avoid this one. I’ve even had some people ask me to take it down. But it’s my art and my shop, so I get to put up what I want.”

There’s something about this one, something that makes him seem older than his age. “This…you did this?” He points at the painting.

“Yep, all of these are mine.” He looks around at the different paintings and smiles.

This human is gifted and, dare he even think it, beautiful. “You are quite skilled. Did you study somewhere?”

The man laughs. “Oh no, this was just me playing to see what I could do.”

He’s mesmerized by the laugh. It’s different from most humans. It’s like music. “If this is what you do when you’re playing, I’d like to see what you do when you’re serious.”

The laugh bubbles up again and the human offers his hand. “I’m Bucky.”

Reaching out, he takes the hand and feels a jolt like nothing he’s ever felt before. “I’m Steve.”

Bucky bumps his shoulder and walks toward the counter. “What can I get ya, Stevie?”

Steve smirks at the nickname. If this human only knew that he’d just called the highest ranking demon in hell, Stevie, he’d probably shit himself. He looks up at the menu. “Surprise me, Buck.”

 

Steve returns to the brownstone and waits for Harrison to get in. He has a feeling that it will be awhile, since that asshat can’t keep it in his pants for longer than a few hours. He stayed at the coffee house much longer than he intended, but the more he talked with Bucky, the less he wanted to leave. How is this his everlasting life? He’s billions of years old and never, ever wanted to get to know a human. Hell, he’s never wanted to ‘get to know’ another demon. He’s been a warrior his whole existence and focused on that. But now…

The door opens quickly and Harrison comes in looking panicked. “UH….Boss…I think I need to go home.”

Steve stands, pinching the bridge of his nose. “What the fuck did you do now?”

Harrison gives a pained, stuttered chuckle. “Well, I might have slept with the hot mom and got caught by hot mom’s husband.”

“Fuckin hellfire, Harry!” Steve wants to kill him and could too, but it would just mean making a new one.

“In my defense, I did get her soul before it all happened.” He’s got his hands up in a defensive posture.

Well, there is that. He did the job he was sent to do before becoming a dumbass. “Okay, so you’re going back to hell now.” Snapping his fingers, Harrison disappears and Steve calls up his old reliable. She appears, draped in a red flowing gown, green eyes challenging and an arched eyebrow. “Natalia.”

She smirks and comes toward him like a cat on the prowl, but not a little housecat, but a Black Panther. “Boss man, I was wondering when you were going to let me out to play.”

She’s been trying to seduce him since he created her 74 years ago. He has no interest in her and tries to ignore the voice in his head that tells him it’s because he’s very much interested in someone else. “Down kitten, you have a job to do and I’m not it. I do hate reminding you of that every time we see each other.”

She shrugs and throws herself into an armchair. It’s amazing how she can throw herself into anything and still look like a ballet dancer when she does it. “Can’t blame a girl for trying.”

“You need to get over your spy days. Those were a long time ago.” Natalia Romanova was a Nazi spy during World War II, she’d been created by some nefarious group working out of something called the Red Room. Groomed and taught all the ways to get a man to tell you anything you want to know. And she was their top agent. Then the war didn’t go the way the German’s wanted, Natalia killed herself before being taken prisoner. Steve had stepped in because there wasn’t anywhere for a soul like hers to go, but down. He’d offered her a position on his team and she’d immediately offered herself to him. He still laughs at that because when he’d looked at her and told her that he had no interest in her like that, she didn’t know what to do.

“Come on Boss, you know you want me. Everyone that sees me, wants me.” Steve shakes his head and goes to sit down. Seventy-four years and she still thinks he’s playing hard to get.

“I had to send Harrison back down.” She barks a laugh and he smirks. “And yes, for the same reason…again.”

“It’s not like we’re low on energy down there. Why this interest in acquiring more souls?” She likes to know the ins and outs of why. She believes that if she has enough information, she can gain the upper hand. He knows her kind and trust is the last thing they are given. She’s good at what she does, but any trust he gives her he knows she’ll use it as leverage later.

“It’s not about needing them, it’s about wanting them. Any time we can take something those flying asshats want, it’s a good day.” He leans back in his chair and waits. See, the flying asshats have humans believing that they have to be good to get into heaven, but the truth is, they would go there anyway. The key for hell is that if they get a human to sign away their soul, then heaven can’t touch it. And considering what the soul finds when it gets to hell, they are usually glad with the choice they made. Steve got a glimpse of heaven once during the war and was appalled at what the truth was. It was how he came up with his original idea for hell.

“Okay, so what’s my cover?” Her red dress shimmers in the light of the room and Steve thinks for a few minutes. Today he found something he actually wants, something he could imagine bending to his will for eternity, but he also doesn’t know how susceptible Bucky would be to influence. Stroking his beard, he grins.

“You are going to be an art dealer. I’ll set you up in a loft apartment not far from here with credentials for a gallery in Soho.” She narrows her eyes and he knows that she’s picked up on something. She may not know what exactly, but she knows that something up.

“You have someone in mind.” He nods. What made Natalia so good at her job, when she was alive, was that she could read situations. Something about this one makes her pause. “Boss, what’s going on?”

Sometimes, not often, he sees her go from spy extraordinaire to something he can’t quite put his finger on. Almost like she would like to be a friend, but doesn’t really know how to do that. “There’s a man.” She gives him a coy smile. “His art isn’t like anything I’ve ever seen.”

“Is that all?” She knows there’s more and wants him to say it.

“I can’t explain it. There’s a painting and I’d swear that it’s the war.” Her eyes bug out and he leans his head back. “His work jumps off the canvas and I know that his soul could power Hell for thousands of years all by itself.” He looks up. “I want him.”

Steve makes the calls that are necessary. The gallery in Soho is owned by a demon/human half-breed fathered by a former protégé. She’s happy to help with Natalia’s cover and gives Steve the names of a few people that he might want to look into for contracts. He hands those names off to Natalia because if she’s going to be here for awhile, he might as well keep her busy.

 

Natalia leaves well into the night to get set up in her loft. Steve tries to read through the acquisitions for the last month, but the numbers run together and he finally gives up. Without meaning to or even very aware of it, he finds himself standing outside of Demon’s Run the following morning, but Bucky isn’t inside.

There’s a man behind the counter having an argument with a taller, dark skinned man. It isn’t Steve’s business, but if something is threatening one of the employees of Bucky’s business, Steve’s damn well going to make it his business. It’s only later that he concludes that this was the actual moment that things started to shift.

He goes in to lend a hand, but then hears the conversation. “I’m telling you that Empire Strikes Back was the worst of the three movies.”

Steve takes a breath to calm himself when the man behind the counter turns to him. “Let’s just ask a random stranger and see who he agrees with.” He looks at Steve smiling. “Keep in mind man, that your answer will decided whether your coffee is free this morning.”

Bribery is a concept that Steve can appreciate. “Then I’ll try to give the correct answer.”

“This hack,” He points at the tall, dark-skinned man. “Thinks that Empire Strikes Back is the best of the Star Wars Trilogy. What’s your opinion on that?”

Steve knew that his lack of human culture would come back to bite him in the ass someday. “I haven’t actually seen any of them, so I can’t really give an opinion.”

Then, he hears the voice that haunted him all night. “Where have you been living? Under a rock!” Bucky comes out of the back, wiping his hands on a towel. “Stevie, Stevie, Stevie, we are going to have to remedy this immediately.” He looks at the man behind the counter. “Clint, give this man a coffee on the house for being so out of touch with human culture.”

Bucky looks up at Steve and winks. Steve would like to say that the hitch in his breathing is caused by not near enough time spent at home, but that’s the biggest lie that Steve would ever have tried to sell himself. “Thanks Buck, and I’m sorry I’m such a disappointment.”

The tall man, smiles and offers his hand. “Hi man, I’m Sam and now that these losers know you haven’t seen the movies, I’m sure I’ll be seeing you soon.”

Steve quirks an eyebrow at Bucky. “Oh come on Steve, you’re going to have to come over and watch them now and these two will follow because they are like stray kittens that I fed.”

Sam chuckles and Clint tries to look offended. “If you order pizza it’s like you’re inviting me without inviting me.”

Bucky looks up at Steve again. “See? I fed him pizza once and next thing I knew, he worked here.”

Sam takes his coffee and heads to the door. “It was nice meeting you Steve. See you at movie night.”

He looks back at Bucky questioningly. “Is there really going to be a movie night?”

Bucky throws his head back and laughs. Steve wants to bite him until he draws blood. “Well yeah, we don’t make idle threats around here. Tonight at 9.” Steve ends up taking his coffee and sitting at a corner table when the café gets busy. He finds himself looking at the other paintings and becoming just as enthralled as he was the day before.

The rush subsides and Bucky comes to sit with him. “What is it about my paintings that has you so engrossed?”

Steve shakes his head, looking for the right words. “I don’t really know. I think it’s how much life they have in them.”

Bucky beams at him. “That’s the nicest thing that anyone has ever said about them. Most people don’t get them.”

Steve leans on the table. “Tell me about them.”   Bucky’s eyes sparkle with untold depths of passion about his work.

“Well that’s kind of personal, Steven. Artists like the viewer to make their own conclusions.” Steve starts to apologize and realizes that he’s never apologized to anyone about anything. Bucky seems to bring out a side that Steve didn’t even know he had. “I’m kidding. Which one do you want to know about first?” Steve points at the one from yesterday. “Oh yeah, that was a pretty dark period in my life. It was a long time ago. My family got into an argument, I guess and it turned into something really ugly.” He looks at the painting and sighs. “I had already left home, but they were still family.”

Steve watches the emotions play across his face. “I don’t have family in the traditional sense.”

Bucky looks at him, brow furrowed. “That’s sad, Steve. Everyone should have family.”

“I don’t know, Buck, from what you just said, they sound like a pain in the ass.” Bucky barks a laugh, exposing his throat again and Steve has the urge to bite again. “I guess that’s true. Which one next?” Steve points at one by the door that’s nothing but oranges and yellows. “Oh, you like the troubled ones.” Steve laughs. “I did that one just a last year when I opened this place.”

“Then why is it troubled? That sounds like a good memory.” Bucky reaches across the table and puts his hand over Steve’s.

“I was troubled at the time. I’ve been alone a long time Steve, and I guess it just got to me. I painted my frustration.” They talk for much of the morning and Steve is just about ready to get up and leave when the door opens and Natalia walks in.

Steve watches her out of the corner of his eye as she starts talking to Clint, who is entranced by her. “Can you tell me who the artist is of these paintings?”

Clint nods dumbly and points at Bucky. “Him.”

She runs a finger down the back of his hand resting on the counter. “I like a man of few words.”

It’s everything Steve can do to keep from laughing because if nothing else, she’ll have Clint’s soul locked and loaded by dinner. “I like everything about you.” Clint slaps himself in the forehead. “Jesus, I’m sorry. That was rude and sexist.”

Natalia grins. “I think of it as honest and didn’t take offense to it.” Turning she comes to Bucky, hand extended. He doesn’t take her hand, just stares at it.

Steve watches as Bucky has no physical reaction to Natalia the way most men do. “What can I do for you, ma’am?” His voice it tight and his pleasantry is forced.

She takes a card from her pocket, handing it over. “You’re paintings are incredible and I’d like to put a few in my gallery.”

Bucky reads the card then hands it over to Steve. He takes it not really knowing why Bucky’s handed it over. “I don’t really think I want to do that.” The way that Bucky is looking at her, has Steve cocking his head to the side. It’s almost like he’s trying to see past what she’s presenting to get a look at what’s underneath.

She smirks. “Every artist wants to be discovered.” She leans into him and Bucky leans away from her and steps closer to Steve. Again, the blond isn’t sure what’s happening.

“I appreciate your interest and if I change my mind I’ll call you, but right now, I like all of them where they are.” She narrows her eyes, trying to figure out why her charms aren’t working.

“Maybe we could go to dinner tonight and I can try to talk you into it.” She does that thing with her hip and eyes that have most people, men and women alike, drooling on themselves. Clint is watching Bucky and giving him an encouraging look.

“Thanks, but I have plans tonight.” He lays a hand on Steve’s arm and out of some unborn reflex, Steve puts his over, squeezing gently.

Natalia gages the situation and then turns. “Call me when you change your mind.” And she’s out the door without a look back.

Bucky shivers and looks up at Steve. “Was she creepy or was it just me?”

Clint lays his head on the counter. “It’s just you. What the hell is wrong with you? Didn’t you see her? She fucking perfect and you just blew her off.”

Bucky looks over at Clint, but doesn’t let go of Steve. “Then you go out with her.”

“In my dreams, pal. In my dreams.” Clint goes into the back.

Bucky looks up at Steve. “It wasn’t just me, was it? She made your skin crawl too, right?”

Steve furrows his brow. “She did actually.” He doesn’t know if it’s because he knows what Natalia is or if it’s the fact that she was coming on to Bucky. He really hopes it’s the former.

Bucky shakes then grins at Steve. “So, movie night tonight?” Steve nods and leaves the café with Bucky’s number in his phone. Returning to the brownstone, he finds Natalia waiting.

“Boss, I don’t think I’m the one that’s going to be able to bring this fish in. The guy behind the counter in a heartbeat, but the other one is all you.” As she turns to leave, she hands him three contracts.

Looking at the papers, he laughs. She’s been busy this morning and they have another three guaranteed souls. Later in the day he gets a text from Bucky asking what he likes on his pizza, the grin that crosses his face isn’t one that he’s used to having. It’s not that demons can’t feel happy, it’s just not their natural state, but the text makes Steve happy. Bargaining souls makes him feel accomplished, not happy, but spending the evening with Bucky makes him happy.

He’s got to put a stop to that immediately.

 

The movie and the company are much more enjoyable than Steve wants to admit. Clint is a raving mess, but funny in a way that is endearing. Sam is smart and sarcastic, just the kind of guy that Steve would elevate to demon status. And he’d probably keep his pants on in the dealings. But Bucky, though, Bucky is something completely different.

Bucky is beautiful in a way that Steve doesn’t recognize as having ever felt. Billions of years and no one and nothing has ever made his demon heart quake the way Bucky does just walking into the room. The pizza is from the same place that Steve likes and the scotch is aged to perfections. There’s an easel in the corner with a new painting on it, but it’s in the early stages so Steve can’t tell what it’s going to be. The background is swirls of blues and whites making Steve think it’s not a troubled piece.

They watch the first movie and Steve can see the appeal to the human condition. The idea that good and evil are so easily identified is simplistic, but works. His personal favorite is Han Solo because he blurs the line between the two. As the evening is winding down, Clint stumbles out the door with Sam holding him up. “This fool can’t take his liquor.”

Clint pats him on the cheek and starts expounding on the attributes of the red-head from earlier that day. “No lie man, she was amazing. Like death, but really beautiful.”

Steve jolts at that description because when one of her acquisitions dies, she does act as the angel of death to collect the soul. Bucky chuckles uncomfortably. Steve looks over and he shivers. “Buck?”

Sitting back down with Bucky, the door clicks closed as Sam and Clint leave. “I don’t know what it is about her, but she just makes me uncomfortable.”

Steve smiles softly. This sweet, gentle human might be a little empathic and that’s why he can pick up a little of what Natalie really is. It doesn’t explain why he can’t feel the same thing or more from Steve. “Don’t think about her.” He looks back over at the easel. “Tell me about this new piece. The colors don’t say troubled.”

Bucky looks over at the alcove and blushes. Steve likes the way his skin flushes and wants to reach out, but stops himself. “Oh that’s definitely not troubled.” He looks back at Steve, who isn’t looking at the easel anymore, he’s looking at Bucky. “Why don’t you let me teach you to paint?”

That shakes the demon out of it. “What?!”

Bucky turns, leaning into Steve’s space. “I’m serious. It would be fun and you could go through the process with me. Come on, Stevie! Let’s paint together.”

Steve starts laughing. “I have no creative talent, but if it’s that important to you, okay. Let’s paint together.” He has no idea why he agreed to this, but seeing Bucky’s face light up, makes him stop questioning his motivations. And if Steve plays this just right, it might be a way to secure the man’s soul.

 

The next day, Steve spends his time visiting his topside demon crew. It takes him from Bangkok to St. Petersburg to Queens. In Queens, he has to smile at the small elf of a child that’s just talked an entire family into signing a contract. Peter is young, like very young. In earth years was a mere 15 when he died, in demon years, he’s 3. Steve is actually the one that made the bargain that finds Peter where he is now. Peter’s uncle had been shot and Steve saved the man’s life with Peter’s soul as the bargaining chip. The boy had signed immediately.

Steve wasn’t expecting to have to harvest the boy’s soul for many, many decades, but he’d been pushed from the roof of his building a year later by a boy that was teasing him mercilessly. Steve came back for the other boy later. It wasn’t normally the way they do things, but after Peter found out what hell was really like and begged Steve to work with him, Steve developed a soft spot for him. It made what the other boy did unscrupulous and Steve wouldn’t let that stand. He’d claimed that Peter jumped on his own; making the aunt and uncle believe they could have saved him if they’d known he was suicidal.

Before reaping the other boy, he’d had him write a letter to the aunt and uncle confessing what he’d done. The boy had laughed at him at first, then Steve showed the little shit his true form and he’d caved instantly. Then, Steve had taken the boy to the same roof and killed him with his bare hands. Some souls weren’t worth saving or using. Again, not normal operating procedure, but satisfying nonetheless.  

Peter looks up, smiling at his boss. “Hey Mr. Steve!” The family has wandered away and Peter hands Steve the contracts.

“Hey Pete. How did everything go?” Steve would swear that Peter could be an angel with his face and smile.

“Just like you wanted. They signed no problem when I assured them their financial troubles would be taken care of.” He shrugs. Most of the time, they were just good people that hit a rough patch and yes, that means that demons are using their misfortune against them, but demons are demons.

“That’s the most common deal we make.” He looks over the contracts and everything looks perfect. “Where are you headed next?”

“Another one here in Queens.” He laughs. “I’m going to stop for pizza before heading home. That’s not a problem is it?”

“Not in the slightest.” The boys beams at him.

“Mr. Steve, what are you working on right now?” The boy is way too good at picking up on Steve’s moods. And a confused boss is like a beacon to this boy.

“There’s an artist in Brooklyn that I can’t get a read on.” Peter seems surprised. “I’m not used to that. Usually humans are easier to figure out, but this one is a mystery.”

Peter laughs and slaps Steve on the back. There aren’t many that would be that familiar with Steve, but Peter is special. “You’ll figure it out. Anyone else and I would say leave it and move on, but you’ll get it.”

“Thanks Pete. You rest when you get home. Have some fun.” Peter grins, heading off in the other direction.

Steve zeroes in on Natalia and finds her across the street on the roof of a building near the café. “Natalia, what are you doing?”

She jumps and Steve takes a little pleasure in the fact that he scared her. “This guy…Steve…there’s something about him that isn’t right.” She looks back at the café. “I went in this morning to get coffee and just to feel out the situation and he went into the kitchen and refused to come out until I left. I think he knows what I am, but he doesn’t have the same reaction to you. If anything he should be more repulsed by you.”

Steve laughs and looks at the café. “I can only tell you what he told me last night, you give him the creeps.” There’s satisfaction in Steve’s voice. “He doesn’t like you, so like you said yesterday, this one is all me.”

“So what’s your next move?” Steve turns to walk away, as he fades into the black, swirling smoke, he calls back to her.

“I’m going to have painting lessons.” The thing about Natalia is, Steve could be friends with her, but she tries to keep so much of herself under tight control. Even her demon self doesn’t let go in hell. She tries to remain aloof, but he can tell there’s part of her that really wants to let go. For whatever reason, she just won’t let herself. Steve doesn’t trust that.

Entering the café, Bucky looks up and his smile is blinding. “Steve.” It’s spoken so softly and with such affection that Steve finds himself blushing.

“Hey Buck.” Something settles inside Steve and he has to start facing the fact that he might, just might, have a little problem.

 

Painting with Bucky is an experience. He sets Steve up in the alcove and moves his own canvas to the center of the living room. He told Steve he needs the natural light and Steve doesn’t argue. “So what am I supposed to paint?”

Bucky grins. “Whatever inspires you. That’s what art is Steve, it’s about what you have a passion for and making that come alive on the canvas.”

Steve stares at the blank canvas and has nothing to offer the taunting surface. Does he have a passion? “What if I don’t know what my passion is?”

Bucky comes over, handing Steve a pallet and brush. “Then just start adding color to the surface. See what comes out. Don’t think about it.” He taps Steve’s temple. “Feel it.” He taps Steve’s chest. “Art comes from in here.” He lays his hand against Steve’s chest. Steve could swear that his heart beats double time.

Bucky goes to his canvas and starts painting, leaving Steve to try and tap in to some part of himself that he doesn’t even know if he possesses. Does he have heart enough to create something like Bucky? After a few minutes and being watched covertly by the artist in the room, Steve starts adding color. After a few minutes of watching the color smear across the surface, he stops thinking. He lets his mind wander to other things: Peter and his constant optimisms, even considering what he does for Steve, Natalia and her need to control every situation, but being stumped by Bucky’s reaction.

Bucky.

Steve gets lost in thoughts of his new…what is Bucky…friend. He’s never been naïve and isn’t going to start now. Whatever this is between them, it’s more than friendly, although it is that too. Without realizing he starts smiling. The echo of their breathing and the shushing of the brushes on their respective canvases is all that can be heard. It isn’t until there’s a knock at the door that they both startle out of their reverie.

Bucky opens the door to find Clint standing there, with Natalia on his arm. Bucky freezes, then steps back into the apartment coming to stand next to Steve, who has come closer to the door. “Clint?” Bucky doesn’t smile at his friend and side-eyes Natalia.

Natalia looks around appraisingly. Without being invited, she goes to the canvas in the alcove, smirking at what she finds. “Hey Nat, what’s that?” Clint watches her with a level of devotion that Steve wants to smirk at, but holds it in.

Natalia looks up at Steve. “It would seem that Mr. Barnes isn’t the only man with talent.”

Steve’s not even sure what he painted considering that his mind kept him pretty focused on Bucky. The three others in the room join Natalia at the canvas. Bucky sucks in a breath, Clint whistles, and Natalia quirks an eyebrow. Steve doesn’t even know how to explain what he sees. He’s never painted, he’s never tried anything creative other than creatively getting humans to sign over their souls, but this…this is extraordinary.

Steve feels Bucky clutch at his hand. “Stevie?”

Steve’s shaking his head like this couldn’t have been him. Instead of it being just random colors swiped across the canvas, he sees Bucky’s eyes looking back at him. “I d-don-don’t know how…”

Bucky turns him, enveloping him in a hug, nuzzling into his neck and Steve catches himself burying his nose in the other man’s hair. He smells like everything good. That thought crashes around Steve upending his very immortal coil. Without considering how it would later affect everyone, Steve bolts for the door. Once on the other side, he evaporates into the black, swirling smoke.

Natalia looks at the two men and sees that Clint just seems confused, but she’s discovering that it is his natural state, but Bucky…Bucky looks devastated. “Listen…” She starts to step toward him, but he quickly steps away. “You want to tell me why you keep doing that?”

Clint looks between the two, but knows that both of them can handle themselves, so he goes to the kitchen for a soda. “I don’t like you.”

She practically cackles at that. “Yes, that’s very obvious, but why?”

He starts to speak, but stops himself. Scratching his head. “I don’t really know. You just don’t feel right.”

Cocking her head to the side her eyes widen in understanding. He’s an empath, but probably doesn’t know it. “Well, you can keep your distance or I can help you figure out what happened with your friend.”

Bucky looks longingly at the door. “He didn’t say that he knew you.”

“We don’t really know each other.” It’s not a lie; everything Natalia thought she knew about her boss just went out the window. “We run in some of the same circles and I’ve seen him here and there.”

He keeps staring at the door, not aware that Natalia has moved back over to the painting. Glancing over, she sees what Bucky painted. And finds this whole situation infinitely more interesting. “I just don’t understand what spooked him so much.”

Natalia takes the soda offered by Clint and they look between the two canvases. “I’d say that he’s falling in love with you and that’s enough to make him run.”

Bucky turns to look at her, finally. “But why?”

“He’s not built like everyone else. He doesn’t know how to love anyone or anything.” Realizing that she may have said too much, she pulls Clint from the apartment leaving Bucky to his own thoughts.

 

Clint pulls her into his apartment, kissing along her neck. Natalia chuckles darkly, yeah, she’s going to have this one in the bag before the evening is over. She doesn’t normally put this much effort into an acquisition, but Clint is different. She can’t really put her finger on what that means, but under all the goofy, klutzy mess, is a man of great compassion and dedication to his friend. It helps that when she gets him like this, he will tell her just about anything she wants to know.

“Why do you think your friend ran out on Bucky?” She isn’t expecting Clint to have the mental capacity to ask a question, so she must not be doing her part. She doubles her effort, pushing him into the wall, kissing him fiercely. He chuckles into it and she pulls back. He’s smirking at her. “Trying to avoid the question?”

She freezes. Maybe he’s not as clueless as she first thought. “I can’t really speak to why he ran, I can only guess.”

Clint pulls her against him. “Your guess is better than anyone else’s researched information.”

She lays her head against his chest and groans. “I’d say that was a line, but somehow I don’t think you could say anything that wasn’t true.”

He chuckles. “You don’t know me very well, Ms. Romanova. I can lie with the best of them.”

She looks up, smiling genuinely. “I really do think Steve’s falling in love with your friend and doesn’t know how to process that.”

“Sounds like you like to surround yourself with people that you know you can outsmart.” That causes her to bark a laugh, and he hoists her into his arms; heading to the bedroom.

 

Steve sits atop the Brooklyn Bridge looking out at the city skyline and wonders what the fuck is happening to him. A few days around Bucky and he’s not sure who he is anymore. How did he go from highest ranking demon in hell to whatever he is now? Steve doesn’t understand how his creator would even make a demon that could suddenly feel something like this. What kind of twisted piece of shit would do this?

Peter stands back, watching his mentor. He may have been young when he died and by demon standards he’s even younger, but he knows longing when he sees it. “It doesn’t make you weak, you know.” Steve lurches at the voice from behind him. The last ‘person’ he’s expecting is Peter.

“What are you doing here, Pete? Weren’t you supposed to go home?” The young man sits down next to him, feet dangling off the edge of the platform. Looking all of his young age and inspiring optimism.

Instead of answering, Peter just starts talking. “You’re not really bad, you know. When I agreed to our deal, I thought I was in for an eternity of torture, but the way things are set up now because of you, it’s not really torture. I think, when I was alive, that if someone said demon, first, I would laugh because those aren’t real, then second, I’d think red glowing eyes and horns.”

Steve huff and laugh. The kid has never seen his true form and Steve doesn’t foresee a future where he’d scare the kid that way. “Where are you going with this Peter?”

“I don’t know what’s going on with you, but when you came to check on me, I was sure there was something different. I may have been young when I died, Mr. Steve, but I lived with two people that loved each other very, very much. When one of them was unhappy, they looked like you look now.” Peter does something that only he can get away with. He leans into Steve, resting his head on the bigger man’s bicep. Steve’s not sure when this kid became his, but he has and Steve can’t find it in himself to mind.

“When did you get so wise, kid?” How does Steve accept this about himself? He’s been alone so long and now he can’t stop the longing to be anywhere that Bucky is. “What did you mean when you first got here?”

Peter’s head pops up. “Oh…uh…love, Mr. Steve. It doesn’t make you weak. In fact, it’s probably the thing that keeps most people going when they don’t think they can.”

Steve chuckles. “Then I ask again, when did you get so wise?”

 

There’s a certain resignation that Steve lets wash over him. He wants Bucky, he can’t deny that, but he also has a job to do and feelings aren’t going to get in the way. If he wants the man’s soul, he’s going to have to play this like a human. He spends days, too many probably, watching how the humans interact in romantic situations. Demons don’t play the games that humans seem to need. Demons see what they want and take it or in the case of two of his siblings, negotiate.

He watches heterosexual relationships, he watches homosexual couples, he watches asexual relationships and they all have one thing in common, the good ones are attentive to their partner and read their emotions. Steve’s convinced that he’s screwed. After realizing that he doesn’t know how to do any of that, he does the only thing that he can…he goes home.

 

Tony’s job is to keep the hell-machine running smoothly and his counterpart’s job, his partner, his wife, his mate, keeps the books on point. Tony and Pepper are also purebloods, two more of the five that survived the war. To look at either of them, no one would suspect what great warriors they are, but Steve knows. They are as close to siblings that Steve will ever have. All created at the same time, with Thor and Bruce, all survivors of the devastation, but Tony has something that Steve has never understood: Love.

He finds them lounging in what Tony lovingly refers to as the common room. The whole structure takes up what would be a whole city block and everyone in hell, half-breeds and souls alike know that it’s the epicenter to the pure bloods. Without looking up from whatever he’s tinkering with, Tony knows he’s there. “Well Captain, my Captain, what brings you into our neck of the woods?”

Captain is Tony’s personal joke from millions of years ago when Steve figured out how to get more power from the souls they had. Tony just grinned that day and told Steve, “Whatever the Captain wants, is what we will provide.” The nickname stuck.

Steve throws himself into a chair. “I need your help.”

Tony leaps to his feet, clapping his hands together, and rubbing them with a gleeful look. “Anything you want, need, don’t need yet, but might at some point…name it!”

Pepper giggles. “For Lucifer’s sake, Tony, let the man talk.” Tony takes a seat, clasping hands with Pepper and watches. Steve leans forward, elbows on knees. Pepper knows that pose, tapping Tony’s hand twice to let him know that something serious is up. “Steve?”

Taking a deep breath, he meets their eyes. “I think I’m in love.”

 

Bruce runs into the room where Thor is reading from one of those pulp fiction novels from the 40’s. Bruce has never understood why those things are so appealing to the big blond. “Thor, I think there’s a shift happening.”

Thor looks up, grinning. “What do you mean, beloved?”

Bruce blushes furiously at that, but tries to ignore the embarrassing discomfort. He sighs then gives a slight smile to his mate. “You know those books…the ones that were here before we were?” Thor nods, knowing that Bruce sometimes has to work himself up to his point. “You know how all the stuff in them has come to pass?”

Thor gets up noticing that Bruce is carrying one of those volumes. “You mean the ones that date before our war?” It’s Bruce’s turn to nod. “What troubles you, my love?”

The blush rises up Bruce’s cheeks again. “I told you before that everything except the last of the entries has come true and the book was vibrating on the shelf, so I took it down and…”

He doesn’t finish his spill when Thor takes the book. “Why do the words seem to be dancing on the page? Have I been drinking and forgot?”

Bruce chuckles at that and Thor grins because he uses humor when Bruce is getting too overworked and it always works. “That’s what I’m worried about. It’s never done that before, that I know of, and I don’t know what it means.”

Thor leans in, kissing Bruce’s temple. “But, love, you know everything.”

Bruce shakes his head, looking at the floor. “I don’t know everything, but this has to mean something, right?”

Thor, who hides his intellect behind brute force, closes the book. “Of course it means something, but unfortunately, we do not know what.”

Their’s is a new relationship in the span of their long lives, but there is also a comfort to be had when they are together. Bruce tends to the upkeep of the written histories and Thor protects the archive. Thor sometimes looks at his mate and wonders if who he was during the war and who he is now are really the same. He was a true force to be reckoned with during the war, even giving himself and Steven a run for strongest of hell’s demons. Now he is what the human’s would call a book nerd and Thor wonders if that is what he’s always been and fought only because he had to. It makes him love Bruce even more.

“I think we should talk to Pepper and Tony about this.”

“And Steven?” Bruce doesn’t always say everything he thinks and Thor has come to accept that, but something about this starts to itch at the back of Thor’s brain.

“I don’t want to bother him if it’s nothing. He’s busy enough.” Looking at this partner, Bruce tries to convey that it’s not time to call in the big guns yet.

“It has been many, many years since we have seen him. He is the busiest of us all.” Bruce nods and knows that Thor will leave it be until they have something more to go on.

 

“Steve?” Tony sits with his eyes bugging out and Pepper looks concerned.

“I need to understand something.” They both look expectantly. Steve stares at the floor, not wanting to see their faces, but also needing to collect his thoughts. “See, I knew that we could have saved hell, back then, if we had chosen to breed with each other, but you two were already…” He waves his hand around and they nod. “And I just couldn’t bring myself to do that with…anyone.” Again they nod, they had figured this out about Steve billions of years ago. He was never the physical type with anyone, not even a hug. Tony happens to know that the closest that Steve can come to physical contact is Peter and that’s not the same thing. Just because they don’t see each other often, doesn’t mean that Tony doesn’t keep tabs on his brethren. “There’s this guy…”

Tony jumps up again. “Clarify Cap, demon guy or guy guy?”

“Human guy.” Pepper sits forward now. “He’s…fuck…I can’t even explain it.” She gestures for him to continue. “How do you know if you love something?”

Tony falls back onto the sofa looking like an owl in a tree. “You…love…” Getting up, he paces the room. “You don’t love, Steve. You run stuff and make deals and keep the demons we create in line. You! Don’t! Love!”

Pepper shushes him. “Steve, you know that demons don’t love like humans do.” Steve looks at her in confusion. “Oh, of course you don’t know that.” She looks at him embarrassed, but Steve’s not sure if she’s embarrassed for herself or for him. “Okay, so humans love with only part of themselves because they never fully trust their own emotions. Demons and angels were created differently than that. Lucifer created us the way that Michael created the angels. Our love is all consuming. It delves into our cells and we become part of the thing we love. For demons if it isn’t returned, we tend to destroy what we love as a way of healing ourselves.   Angels do the same thing, but in the name of justice.” She looks nauseas just from the thought.   “An angel will smite what it loves and call it an abomination or demonic in origin. If you think you might love this man and he doesn’t return that love, do you really want to take the chance that you’ll destroy him?”

Steve sits back. “There isn’t a circumstance that I could ever imagine destroying Bucky. Even if he doesn’t love me.” It’s true and the other thing that Steve has come to realize is that he doesn’t want Bucky’s soul anymore. He wants Bucky to choose him and not because he made a deal. It was a hefty realization and one that had Steve coming here.

Pepper’s eyes fly to Tony, who’s already making the call. It could have been months ago, or years, time wasn’t the same in hell, when Bruce had brought the book to them. When he and Thor had come to explain what the volumes were and how the dancing words were a new development. Bruce had been a little panicked, but Thor had been able to calm him enough to explain about the vast number of them in the archive. “Bruce, get Thor and get your asses here now.”

Steve watches all of this in utter ignorance at what’s going on. Black smoke appears and Steve’s other brothers appear. Thor sees Steve and grins joyfully. “Steven! It has been so long!” He’s the most jovial demon, but when fighting, no one wants to be on the receiving end. Thor scoops him up, hugging the daylights out of him. Bruce is much quieter and shakes Steve’s hand.

“It has been a very long time. How are you?” Thor comes over, putting an arm around Bruce.

“I’ve come with a problem, told these two and that’s how you ended up here.” Tony waves his arm to get everyone to sit.

“Steve, why don’t you start at the beginning and explain everything?” Pepper takes charge because if she doesn’t, no one else will.

Steve tells them about Bucky, the paintings that drew him into the cafe, Bucky’s aversion to Natalia and everything in between. The more he talks, the more he smiles. Such an uninteresting way to meet someone, and yet Steve can’t deny the fact that it means so much more than a chance meeting now.

“Okay, Pepper, make him stop doing that. It’s freaking me out.” Steve looks up and doesn’t understand what Tony’s going on about.

“It is true Steven. That is not the smile we are accustomed to seeing. That is the smile of someone in love. I should know.” Thor looks at Bruce, who blushes.

“Wait…you two…you…” Steve has been away from these two for hundreds of years. Running the soul collection is time consuming, but he suddenly feels like he’s been neglecting his family. And that’s a thought he would have never had before Bucky.

“It is a recent development.” Bruce shyly volunteers. “But let’s get back to the matter at hand.”

“Yeah, tell them how you don’t think you could destroy this guy even if he doesn’t love you back.” There’s a stutter in the room. Bruce looks at Thor in alarm and Pepper nods her head at them.

Bruce looks at Thor, then at Tony and Pepper. Steve feels like the only guy in the room that doesn’t know what’s going on because he is. “Someone want to tell me what’s happening?”

Bruce reaches out and a book appears in his hand. “S-Steve, you know that I keep all the records of proclamations and prophecies, s-so you know that certain things haven’t been released to the general population of hell, y-you know, the halflings.” Steve nods. “Well, that doesn’t mean that I don’t review certain articles from time to time just to keep abreast of things.”

“Bruce, what’s this all about?” Steve tries not to lose his temper with his siblings because they all have a unique way about them.

“I was reviewing the old stuff, just for fun, oh about…” He looks over at Thor. “How long ago was that?”

“It was 167 years ago by earth standards, love.” Bruce smiles at his partner. “It was just before…”

Before he can finish, Bruce stops him. “Yes, then.” Thor barks a laugh and Bruce blushes. “They’re all prophecies from before our time.” He opens the book and goes to the last page. “And it will come to pass that a demon will love another in a way that a demon cannot love and that demon shall rule.”

Steve furrows his brow. “Rule what?”

Bruce swallows thickly, looking at the others. “Everything.” Steve laughs because this is just too much. “Steve, you have to understand, we don’t even know who wrote this down. These are books from before us and everything else in these volumes has come to pass. This is the last entry of the last volume from this collection.”

Steve gets up, going to the bar. “I just wanted this guy’s soul. This isn’t some great love story with me leading…wait, what do you mean everything?”

“Heaven, hell, the humans…everything.” Bruce takes the book to the bar and shows it to Steve.

Steve puts his face in his hands. “This is not me!” Sliding his hands down and away from his face, he stares at the ceiling. “I’m just a demon that collects souls.”

Pepper stands and Tony joins her. “You’ve always been more than that to us, Cap. You’re the reason that we have this life. Maybe you need to accept the fact that you were meant for something more than just collecting souls.” Steve looks unconvinced.

Pepper reaches out, laying a hand tentatively on Steve’s arm. She knows he doesn’t like contact, but seems to accept her gesture. “Go to this human, see if he loves you too, if he does we’ll get to see a prophecy unfold. If he doesn’t and you don’t destroy him, we’ll see a prophecy unfold. Either way Steve, this isn’t you. We’ve known you since our creation and this, right here, that we’re seeing, isn’t the you we know. Of all of us, you have always been the most confident. When you didn’t know how to do something you figured it out and dragged us along with you and thank Lucifer you did. If this is meant to be; we want you to have it.” Steve’s definitely been away from his family too long.

 

Bucky sits inside the café after closing. Sam left earlier, but made Bucky promise that he would call if he needed anything. Clint cleans the display case out, bagging up the extras for the homeless shelter. “You want to take any of this home?”

Bucky shakes his head, but keeps staring out the window. “Do you think he’ll come back?”

Clint snorts. “The way he bolted that day, no I don’t.” He looks up at Bucky. “I’m sorry about that.”

Bucky looks back at Clint. “It’s okay. I just really thought he was the one.”

Clint reaches over, taking Bucky’s hand. “I know you’ve been waiting a long time, but there’s no guarantees in life.”

Bucky chuckles, but it’s sad. “I just thought…” Before he can finish, the door opens and Natalia steps in. Bucky has come to terms with her presence and has even made an effort to be nice. Clint really cares about her and even though Bucky didn’t think she had it in her, she seems to care about Clint as well.

Her face softens when she sees Clint stand up behind the counter. Bucky had to get used to that. He really didn’t think she had the ability to be soft, but there it is for anyone to see. “Hiya, babe. Want a snickerdoodle?” He holds up the cookie and Bucky laughs.

“I’d rather have caffeine, but if you want to throw a cookie in for good measure, I’m on board with that too.” She sits down next to Bucky. “Any word?”

He shakes his head sadly. “Anything from mutual friends?”

Since Steve left, she’s been trying to get answers from all of her usual channels, but even the boy, Peter, won’t say anything. She suspects that he knows something, but isn’t willing to betray Steve. “No, no one has seen or heard from him.”

Bucky gets up to lock up. “Well, I guess that’s that then.”

Natalia catches his hand, turning him to face her. “I know we didn’t get off on the best footing, but I really hope he comes back.”

 

Steve returns to earth and goes to the café. Checking his phone, he sees that he’s been gone for nearly two weeks. Standing outside, he sees Natalia leaning on the counter, talking to Clint and Bucky is nowhere to be seen. If the way they are talking in such an intimate manner is any indication, this is more than just securing a soul. He didn’t think the ex-spy had it in her to fall for anyone, but it seems to be a running theme lately. Stepping inside, Natalia’s eyebrow goes up and Clint scowls at him. “Is Bucky here?”

The kitchen door opens and Bucky comes out looking as haggard as Steve feels. He’s even more beautiful than Steve remembers and he remembers quite well. Bucky looks up, meeting Steve’s eyes. “Stevie?”

Everything that Steve believes to be true about himself, vanishes in that instant. All there is, is Bucky. And that inability to love seems to have vanished. “I’m sorry.” If Steve were paying attention, he would see Natalia nearly lose her composure at his apology. “I didn’t know what to do with it.”

Bucky steps closer, but still too far out of reach. “What to do with what?”

“You, how I feel…about you.” He’s a step closer now and it’s everything Steve can do not to reach out and pull him in.

“How do you feel about me?” There’s desperation in his voice and Steve can’t stand that.

“I think…” Steve looks down then back up into those grey eyes. “No, I know that I love you.”

Bucky is on him before Steve can process his movements. Steve’s never been kissed before and lets Bucky guide him. Still being held in Steve’s arms, Bucky pulls back. “I love you too. Is that crazy?”

Steve sets Bucky down, brushing his hair away from his face. “Everything about this is crazy.”

Bucky doesn’t take his eyes from Steve’s. “Clint, you’re going to close today.” Taking Steve’s hand Bucky leads him out of the café and back to his apartment. They both miss the look that passes between Natalia and Clint.

The sign on the door is turned to ‘Closed’ and Natalia turns to Clint. “You promised if Steve came back and this happened, I got to see. Pay up, Angel Boy.” Clint barks a laugh, then closes his eyes. Natalia watches in awe as the wings come out and span the breadth of the café. “I am in so much trouble.”

Clint comes to her, wrapping his arms and wings around her. “You will never be in trouble again, Demon Girl.”

Steve may not have experience, but he knows where this is leading. As they step into Bucky’s apartment, he looks around uncomfortably. He sees his painting still on the easel in the alcove. “Maybe we should talk first.” He knows the logistics of human sex, but not the application.

Bucky pulls him to the bedroom with a strength that surprises Steve. “Fuck talking, I’ve waited my whole life for you.”

He pushes Steve onto the bed and crawls over him. “There are things I should tell you. Things that might repulse you. You don’t even really know me, Buck.”

Bucky grins ferally before taking Steve mouth again. When he starts to trail kisses down Steve’s neck biting hard enough to make the demon shout, Steve doesn’t know if he’s ready for whatever this is about to become. Everything about this is overwhelming, especially the feelings that Bucky’s movements are having on Steve’s body. As Bucky rips open his shirt, biting and sucking at Steve’s chest, the blond tries to talk. “I’m…not what…ah…you…fuck…think…” He trails off with a whimper as Bucky gets to his pants and removes them quickly.

Steve’s clothes and shoes hit the floor and Bucky hovers over him, grinning down at him. “What? You aren’t a first creation of Lucifer?”

Steve tries to sit up in shock, but he can’t because Bucky is holding him down. Literally, has enough strength to hold Steve down. Steve gets it now, he knows what this is. He’s been lured into a trap and never even saw it coming. He’s gotten soft and now that weakness is going to be his death. He’s in a vulnerable position with, what he can only assume is an angel, hovering over him. He should have known. He should have suspected when he reacted to Bucky the way he did. He should have seen that Bucky could only consume him this way if he wasn’t human.

There has been one time in Steve’s very, very long life that he’s been scared and this is that moment. “What are you?” Bucky smirks, pulling his hair aside, he shows the mark to Steve.

Demons don’t have anxiety attacks, but Steve thinks this might be a day of firsts. He’s made a horrible mistake and this love that he’s feeling has been placed in the hands of the one thing that can destroy him and it sure as hell isn’t an angel. Tears gather in his eyes and he looks away. An angel he might die doing it, but he’d damn well fight to his last breath and take the fucker with him, but this…this isn’t something he can fight.

After today, his brothers and sister will have to figure out his part of their hell machine. Pepper is smart, she will figure it out pretty quick. There will only be four of them after this and he wishes he’d hugged them before he left. Even in this horrific situation, the new emotions that he’s found are bubbling up.

Maybe he could buy himself enough time to contact one of them or Natalia, just so they know. So they don’t look for him and possibly get themselves destroyed in the process. She could take a message to them. For the first time, he understands family. But he got himself into this clusterfuck and he has no one to blame but himself.

This is not how he thought he’d die.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t know.” Steve still averts his eyes because looking on this being isn’t something he’s worthy of. “You owe me nothing, but please allow me to contact my brothers and sister, so they know.”

Bucky stiffens, looking on his beloved with confusion. “Steve…Stevie…look at me.” He can’t disobey a command, not from him, so he does. Maybe it won’t be so bad, at least the last thing he’ll see is Bucky and no matter how Bucky feels about him, Steve still loves him. When their eyes lock, Bucky seems to understand why he’s acting this way. “Oh my beloved.” He reaches for Steve’s face and the demon flinches. “I would never harm you. I haven’t brought you here under false pretense to hurt you.”

Tears course down the corners of Steve’s eyes, wetting his hairline, another first for today. “There is nothing else you could want me for.”

Bucky laughs, but it’s not maniacal, it’s soft and sweet. “I’ve brought you here to claim you. You are mine from now until our existence withers. Let me show you.”

Lucifer was one of two chosen. It was always the plan for him to take hell and create demons, the purebloods. Unlike the stories told through generations of humans he wasn’t banished by Michael. Likewise, it was always Michael’s purpose to create heaven and the angels. That was all they knew of their destinies until the prophecies were handed down. It was then that Lucifer knew what his reputation would entail.

He was hurt, devastated really, and abandoned his creation. They argued, but eventually Michael decided that he wouldn’t desert his brother, so they disappeared together and the demon army and the angel army blamed the other and the war came. Steve led his siblings in that war and destroyed all the angels he could, but angels used the power of the human souls to fuel their fight and the demons were overpowered for a time, unwilling to use the power of the souls under their care. If not for Tony and the dog-like demons he made, they would have fallen to the angels.

“You have lost so much, my love, but you created a place that souls could flourish and thrive.” Steve feels hands caressing his face, wiping away the tears. “Now is your time to thrive. Let me carry your burdens for you now. Let me be what you seek in the darkness. Let me love you, my Steven.”

Emotions that Steve didn’t know he had come out and he’s gathered into strong arms, and cradled against an even stronger chest. Bucky knows this isn’t the moment to claim what he’s desired since the beginning. Now is the time for Steve to rest after so long. So, for the first time ever, he coaxes Steve to sleep. Bucky leaves him there, peaceful, with the barest of a smile on his beautiful face. Going to the living room, he calls out to an old friend and brother. There’s a blinding flash of light and Clint stands in front of him.

Clint smiles softly. “How is he?”

“Sleeping.” He falls to the sofa. “He thought I was going to kill him.” Bucky looks troubled. “What do they think of me if he thought I would destroy him for loving me?”

Clint goes to the kitchen and comes back with two sodas. “We’ve been gone a long time, brother, they don’t know anything about us. They don’t know that the war was never our intention. We lost so many of them; we have to protect what they have built.”

Buck leans back on the sofa, looking at the easel. “You know the prophecy?”

Clint nods. “I do. But considering what he’s built down there, don’t you think he should be running everything?”

Bucky looks back at the bedroom. “He doesn’t even know how important he is. It never would have occurred to either of us to let the souls be happy and that’s all they need to not only exist, but to keep heaven and hell going. For being the chosen, you and I are kinda dumb, brother.”

Clint snorts a laugh. “I never claimed to be smart. I’m just the pretty one.”

Bucky chuckles. “What do we do now?”

Clint sits next to his brother. “Well, I’m going to go pick up my girlfriend and take her and introduce her to the angels and tell them the prophecy has been fulfilled and there’s a new sheriff in town.”

“You’re going to take a demon into heaven?” Clint nods. “You always had more balls than me or is it called stupid?”

Clint laughs again. “It’s a little of both, but man, you’ve seen her, she’s magnificent.”

Clint stands and Bucky joins him, looking once again at the bedroom. “I have a bonding to complete, so you go do your stupid and I’m going to…” He points at the bedroom door.

“Yeah, you go take care of that and brother?”

Bucky looks back at Clint. “Yeah?”

“Be happy.”

 

Steve wakes slowly, aching all over. He looks around the room and finds Bucky standing, looking out of the window. Bucky turns, smiling at the most beautiful sight he’s ever seen. “How do you feel?”

“I’m good.” But Steve winces as he sits up. “Maybe not that good.”

“I want to complete the bond.” Bucky looks worried. “That is, if you want to. I won’t force something on you that you don’t want.”

“What does it mean? The bond, I mean.” Steve has never felt unsure about anything in his existence. He takes in all the information and weighs the outcomes, but this is something he’s not ever been prepared to face.

“It means that you are mine and I’m yours. It means that you will run everything from now on. It means that those above, below and in between will answer to you. The humans will only answer to you after death, of course, but you will run heaven and hell as you have been doing since after the war.” Bucky looks at him hopeful. It isn’t just about finally having what was written about all those billions of years ago, it’s about Steve having someone to help him carry the weight of it. There was never a competition between himself and his brother, they always wanted to same thing: peace. If Steve allows the bond, the shift will be felt above and below. All creatures will know that Steve is the actual chosen one. The angels are going to shit themselves because they always knew it would be one of them. What a surprise that’s going to be.

“And these new feelings that I have?”

Bucky sits on the edge of the bed, but doesn’t reach out. “They aren’t new. You’ve always had them in you. I made you with the ability to love, but you chose not to until you met me.”

Steve reaches out, brushing his fingers against Bucky’s thigh. “Did you always know it was going to be me?”

Bucky chuckles. “No, I didn’t really think it would be anyone, but I’m glad it’s you.”

Steve looks shyly at his creator.   “Then I guess we should finish this.” He looks up blushing and Bucky definitely wants to see Steve do that more often.

Bucky giggles with joy and tackles Steve into the pillows. Less aggressively than before, Bucky kisses him. “There are so many beautiful things in this world, but nothing is as breathtaking as you.”

Nothing that happens is anything like Steve’s limitless experiences. As Bucky moves in him, Steve throws his head back, unable to contain the pleasure shooting through his body. As they come closer to the edge, black smoke swirls around Steve, but it’s countered by a blinding light emanating from Bucky. The two meld and fuse into a new force and in the last second of mounting rapture, as Steve arches from the bed, he sees something never before shared with anyone, they are ink black and deep, midnight blue, in a graceful arch above the bed. Just before Steve passes out, he feels them caress his body into a shudder of pleasure never before experienced. Bucky calls out his name, releasing deep in the demon’s body and sealing their destinies.

The sun sinks into the horizon and as the shadows dance on the walls, Steve has never felt such contentment. But one question still has to be answered. “What happens now?”

Bucky fingers graze up and down Steve’s back as he holds his demon close. Kissing the top of his head, Bucky smiles to himself.   “Anything you want.”

Steve leans up, searching Bucky’s face. “Will you always stay with me?”

“I couldn’t leave you if I tried.” Steve looks concerned at that. “I would never want to. I don’t think you understand the depths of my devotion to you. The humans are fond of saying, ‘the love of a lifetime,’ but you are my love for all eternities.”

Steve smirks. “I don’t have to call you Lucifer, do I?”

Bucky barks a laugh. “I prefer Bucky.”