Steve’s house was at the outskirts of the valley, nestled into the side of the eastern mountain ridge. It took half a day’s ride to get there from the nearest village and he liked it that way. It kept everyone away, kept them safe even if that meant he spent his days in solitude.
It’s for the best, he told himself.
He knew he was right but it didn’t ease the ache in his chest as he stood on the front steps and stared out at the endless trees that lined the path leading from his land out to the narrow lane that fed into the main road.
The pines were tall and green, serene and largely unchanging, they were his only constant companions. Aside from Cap.
As soon as he thought of the oversized trouble maker, the Alaskan Malamute came barreling around the side of the house, a large stick in his jaws.
“What have you found now?” Steve asked him, “Another trophy for the collection?”
Cap dropped the stick and wagged his whole body at Steve begging to play. Steve laughed and picked up the stick, throwing it as hard as he could so his buddy could chase it. Cap took off like a shot and Steve smiled at the puppy-like exuberance in his five-year-old dog.
While he waited for Cap’s return, Steve sipped the steaming coffee from his mug. The air was changing, the mornings cooler and it took longer for the days to warm if they ever really did. Fall was ending and winter was upon them. Snow would come in the next few days if not sooner. He had a lot to do to prepare, which was why he was outside waiting. It was delivery day. His favorite day of the month and not simply because he was mostly out of food that wasn’t rice, potatoes, or small game he caught himself.
Delivery day meant company.
The sun was just over the tips of the mountains when she arrived, her horse, an enormous black Brabant named Widow carried her while pulling a large wagon of supplies behind them. Natasha’s hair gleamed like fire in the late morning light and Steve was struck for the millionth time with how beautiful his friend was.
“Stop mooning at me and come help,” she called as soon as she was close enough.
“I don’t moon ,” Steve argued setting his empty cup on the steps and approaching.
“No, you mope,” Nat said sliding off her mount easily.
Steve pulled her into his arms for a hug and she laughed as he poked his fingers into her sides.
“Be nice,” he told her, “I’ve missed you.”
“Of course you have,” she teased, “I’ve missed you too.” She leaned in and kissed his cheek.
Cap burst from the trees just then, a different, even bigger stick in his mouth and Steve rolled his eyes again. Cap was ridiculous. Natasha cooed at the dog when he came up to her, digging her slender fingers into his thick black and white fur and baby talking him between kisses to his head.
“хороший мальчик,” she said, “Вы держали своего отца в безопасности? конечно у вас есть хороший мальчик.”
“I’m starting to feel like maybe you missed him more than me,” Steve teased.
“Of course I have,” Natasha teased back, “He’s better looking and better behaved than you.”
“Hey!” Steve cried.
He lifted Natasha up and began tickling her mercilessly laughing loudly at her undignified shrieks and snorts of laughter. Finally, Steve took pity on her and set her down.
She leaned into him as if to counter-attack but instead she whispered, “There’s a stowaway in the cart.”
Steve stilled, his lips pressed to her cheek.
He leaned back slowly to gauge his friend’s expression. She was serious but unafraid. Steve had known Natasha for a long time. She’d been his friend back when he’d lived in town before he lost everything and moved to the mountains. He trusted her with his life.
“Dangerous?” He asked, his voice pitched low and soft.
“So far no,” she said, “Though that doesn’t necessarily mean anything.”
Steve hummed thoughtfully and pulled off his grey cable knit sweater draping it over the railing by the stairs. It was a favorite and he didn’t want to see it ruined if things went badly.
“Well let’s get to work,” he said at his normal volume, “No sense in wasting daylight when you’ve got a long ride back.”
“You don’t want me to stay the night?” Nat asked with a grin and a big cheesy wink.
Steve laughed loudly, his head thrown back and a hand over his heart. This is why he missed her. She always knew how to break him out of his shell.
She laughed too, a warm husky sound.
“We tried that once remember?” Steve asked, “Neither of us liked it.”
She wrinkled her nose and Steve chuckled again.
Long ago when his heart had still been raw and she had been feeling both bored and generous she’d come to him with a proposition. They’d been lovers for precisely one evening before quickly throwing in the towel.
While she wasn’t alpha like him, she wasn’t submissive either.
“Two tops don’t make a sandwich,” Nat had told him.
“I still want to be friends,” Steve had responded.
She’d smiled her Cheshire smile and pinched his side playfully. “Always.”
Steve regarded the wagon carefully now dressed in only a plain white tee, dark jeans and work boots. He scratched his beard as Natasha indicated a large trunk at the back with a tilt of her head.
The stowaway was hiding in his new clean linens.
“If you need to go, Nat, I can handle this,” Steve said, “I’m sure Sharon would love to have you back before supper.”
Nat rolled her eyes and hefted a large sack of potatoes off the wagon.
“My wife won’t want me to leave my work half done,” she said, “So stop fussing and start moving.”
They worked well together, lifting crates of supplies off the wagon and stacking them next to the steps. After she had gone, Steve would sort them into house storage and cellar storage. The butcher paper wrapped steaks made his mouth water and he shifted those closer to the door making Nat smile.
“Tired of rabbit?” She teased.
“More than I can say,” he admitted.
It didn’t take long for them to get everything but the linen trunk unloaded. Steve was impressed that the intruder had such patience. He himself had nearly opened it more than once but caution had stilled his hands.
However, the sky was getting darker and it seemed like the snow was choosing to come sooner rather than later. Steve wanted the whole ordeal done with so he could finish his prep and settle inside by the fireplace before it started.
After giving the trunk a long hard look, Steve stepped away and retrieved a thick white envelope from inside his house, which he handed to Natasha. She tucked her payment inside her coat and withdrew a long stiletto which she had worn in a secret sheath in her sleeve.
Steve frowned at her.
“I doubt that’s necessary,” he told her.
“I don’t take chances with what’s mine,” she told him.
His heart squeezed with affection for his friend which must have been reflected in his expression because her eyes softened for a moment then she set her shoulders and nodded.
Steve considered yanking the person out but decided keeping his distance would be wiser.
“You can come out,” he called instead, “I mean you no harm.”
Natasha raised an eyebrow at him.
Steve knew he looked dangerous, over six feet tall and over two hundred pounds of muscle didn’t really scream non-threatening but he wasn’t just his looks. Being an alpha meant he could fight and protect. It wasn’t just aggression and rage, it was also a deep need to provide and care for. Steve didn’t choose to fight if he didn’t have to.
Natasha held her blade and waited, her green eyes trained on the man-sized trunk. Eventually, it opened and a pale hand curled around the rim.
Steve’s heart thundered in his chest and he edged a little closer to Nat, ready to block her body with his if the stowaway attacked. Natasha noticed and elbowed him in the belly. Steve strangely wanted to hug her.
A man sat up in the trunk and looked at them both, a bewildered and slightly frightened expression on his face.
Steve felt his heart skip a beat.
His stowaway was beautiful.
Brown hair framed a handsome face, his eyes a bluish-gray, his jaw strong and straight. There was even an adorable dimple in his chin.
“I’m not going to hurt you,” Steve repeated, “Not unless you try to hurt me or Nat.”
“I don’t want to hurt anybody,” the man said, “I just needed help.”
“Help?” Steve asked, “Are you hurt?”
The man shook his head.
“N-No,” he said, “I needed help...getting away.”
“Oh,” Steve said.
Nat let out an amused snort. Steve reached down and ruffled her hair which he knew she hated.
“You got a name Fievel?” She asked the man in the trunk.
“I don’t get that reference,” Steve admitted.
“An American Tail, watch it. It’s a cartoon about a stowaway, you’ll like it. You love cartoons.”
Steve did like cartoons and he smiled.
“How did you know I’m Russian?” the man asked.
“ kak priznayet kak,” she said.
The man nodded. “I’m Bucky,” he said.
He started to heft himself out of the box but it was obvious that his long cramped journey was causing his body some trouble. Steve hopped up into the wagon and gently eased Bucky out of the trunk and onto his feet.
Being closer to Bucky didn’t help Steve at all. He was a few inches taller than Bucky and broader besides. Bucky was long and lean like a runner, Steve caught himself wondering if his hands could span the smaller man’s waist and that is when his brain caught up with his nose.
Steve felt his eyes go wide in shock and he stumbled back nearly landing on his ass in the dirt as he made his way away from Bucky and off the wagon.
It had been a long time. Over a decade since Steve had encountered an omega and the rush of memories of the last one brought burning tears to his eyes.
His heart rate doubled and his breath quickened like it used to before he’d presented and overcame his childhood asthma.
Dimly aware he was on the verge of a panic attack, Steve apologized to Nat and excused himself, pressing a kiss to her hair then practically running back into his house.
He had to get away from Bucky.
Far away before anyone got hurt.
He couldn’t do all that again.
Bucky walked up the lane away from the picturesque cabin sitting at the base of the mountain.
Away from the terrifying redhead with a knife nearly as long as her arm.
Away from the absolutely gorgeous blond alpha with the sad blue eyes.
It seemed like that was all his life was now, a series of movements away.
First, it had been from his dreams of college and marrying for love. His parents had dashed those plans the moment he’d presented as an omega. His kind was rare, so much so that he had gone from oldest child to a choiceless, voiceless, asset.
He no longer worked the land with his father,being outside could tan and potentially damage his skin so that was out. Doing inside chores roughened his hands and ruined his posture so that was out too. He should have felt happy to be free of the endless daily toil his parents and siblings endured. Instead, he felt stifled and antsy, every day he was kept indoors where he could read and...wait.
His parents were sure that a young, untried, and reasonably attractive omega would bring their family, wealth, and social standing that farming did not. Bucky wanted to help his family and told himself that if marrying rich was the best way for him to do so, then he would do it. That didn’t mean his heart didn’t hurt at the idea of marrying a stranger, at being reduced to his designation and not his skills or his mind. Still, he had a duty to his family and he was committed to fulfilling it.
Or at least he had been.
Then he met his intended husband.
Brock Rumlow was a rich merchant and a first-rate asshole.
He’d come to the Barnes’ food stand six months earlier to buy some of Winifred’s artisanal cheeses, or so he claimed. He’d chatted up George and eyed Bucky like a wolf staring at a flock of sheep. Of course, George had been beyond ecstatic at Brock’s interest in his son so he’d invited the man to dinner.
Bucky had kept his distance, sitting across from him at the table and keeping his eyes firmly on his plate but it had been no use. Rumlow became a regular fixture at the Barnes’ table for Sunday night dinners and he began bringing little gifts, flowers for Winifred or the beer George liked best. Only once had there been a gift specifically for Bucky.
The night Brock proclaimed his interest in marrying Bucky, he’d given him a book of poetry. On the surface it’d seemed kind, romantic even, then Bucky had paged through it while his mother prepared a lavish meal.
Brock had taken the liberty of penning in little thoughts and suggestions into the book’s margins. Mostly they were idle thoughts of what a good mate Bucky would make, how pretty Brock thought he was though others were downright graphic in description of what Brock planned to do to him once they were mated.
Bucky had been shocked but shook it off, perhaps that was just how alpha’s courted. Surely Brock wanted him for more than his body.
He tried to skirt the topic at the table, mentioning his love of reading and of science. He especially loved astrology and the study of space. Brock had paused in his task of cutting his steak to laugh.
“It’s good that you have hobbies,” he told Bucky, “Something to keep your mind busy though I don’t know how much reading and stargazing you’ll get to do with a household to run and children to raise.”
Bucky’d jerked in his seat as if he’d been struck.
“Well, I mean, surely we won’t have children right away,” he’d hedged.
“Of course we will!” Brock had declared, “The sooner I can get you pregnant and in my kitchen the better.”
Bucky had looked to his parents for help but George was guffawing right alongside Rumlow. Winnie had caught her son’s sullen expression and pinched him sharply beneath the table.
His family was on the side of social advancement and money, Brock’s side. Bucky had felt like he was drowning.
He said nothing else that night. Instead, he spent the rest of the meal pushing his vegetables around his plate and planning. There was no way in hell he was marrying that chauvinist pig. He had to get out of it somehow.
Which is how two days later he’d ended up in the back of a supply wagon heading north out of town.
Natasha Romanoff worked as a courier, and Bucky suspected an assassin but that wasn’t something he could prove, and she came to the Barnes’ food stand to purchase milk and cheese. She often came at the end of the month so Bucky was used to her order.
He was happy to be working the stand, Becca was sick with the flu so it left him and Tina to handle the sales while George and Winnie did the manual work of running the farm.
Bucky was only supposed to be handling the money and talking to customers but he was faster than Tina and offered to help Natasha load her purchases.
The tiny woman was more than capable but she was also secretly kind and let him help. It felt good to use his strength for a change and Bucky relished his task. He hadn’t planned on running away just then but when Winnie had called for Tina to help with a couple of escaped goats, Bucky couldn’t pass up his chance.
Natasha had already mounted her horse and Bucky just acted. He climbed in amongst a trunk of linens and curled up as small as he could.
He had no way of knowing where Natasha was taking him and her deliveries but it didn’t matter. Anywhere was better than being bought and sold like a broodmare. Eyes closed tight against the heartbreak of leaving his family and the only home he’d ever known, Bucky settled in for a trip into an unknown future.
His arrival at the house in the mountains had been terrifying. He’d felt the cart stop and instantly wanted to leap out and stretch his cramped limbs but he resisted. He had no idea where they were or whether or not he’d be met with violence upon revealing himself so he waited.
There hadn’t been much to hear on his trip, just the rumble of the cart’s wheels and the sounds of nature as they passed out of town and into the wild. At their destination came a new sound, low and warm and very male . The sound of a man who was fond of Natasha, his voice kind and tinged with affection.
Something she’d said made him laugh at one point and the sound sent shivers through Bucky. He wanted to get out and see the man that sounded so happy but lingering fear froze him still.
Then the inevitable happened.
He was discovered.
“You can come out,” the man had called, “I mean you no harm.”
Bucky wanted to laugh. Of course, he would say that you wouldn’t admit to someone that you were going to hurt them, not if you wanted them to come out of hiding. Still he came out. He had no other choice.
It hurt, unfolding himself from his cramped position, pins and needles pains raced along his limbs making him weak but the blond man had helped, strong hands lifting Bucky out of his box and onto his feet.
So close it had been impossible to miss his alpha scent, a woodsy pine with a sweet hint of mint. Bucky was tempted to pitch himself into the man’s arms and cover himself in it. He never got the chance. The alpha had taken one whiff of his omega scent and nearly dropped him like a sack of hot coals.
Seeing the beautiful man practically run from him was both novel and upsetting.
Was he so repulsive? Had he offended the alpha somehow?
Bucky’d been stuck standing on the cart in confusion until Natasha had spoken to him again.
“Come down from there,” she told him, “It’s time for you to leave.”
“I don’t know where I am,” Bucky admitted.
“Half a day’s ride north of Middlesbrough, about four hours south of the next town,Burnsley. If you take the lane back to the road and go left you’ll be on your way. Turn right if you need to head back the way we came though if that were an option I doubt you’d have runoff in the first place.”
Bucky ducked his head in shame.
He was the farthest from home he’d ever been and he was lost, scared, and hungry.
One look at Natasha and her knife, however, had him moving as she’d demanded.
He shuffled down the lane taking one last look at the house then turned left. He had no idea what was waiting for him in Burnsley but he had no other options so he went.
After watching the stowaway shuffle his way down the road, Natasha marched over to Steve’s door and banged her fist against it. Steve answered immediately since he was sitting on the floor on the other side of the thick wood.
“Yeah,” Nat confirmed, “You wanna tell me what the hell that was about?”
“Nat I can’t. Please? I just can’t.”
His voice sounded a bit watery and Natasha scowled. Steve was a good man. Honest, brave, and sweet. Gave the best hugs. She would kill for him if he needed her to and she looked over her shoulder to where the stowaway had disappeared.
“You want me to kill him?” she asked.
“What? I could make it look like an accident. No one knows he was here but you and me. I can make this all go away real easy Rogers.”
There was the sound of scuffling as Steve hauled himself to his feet. He opened the door and Nat felt her heart pinch at the sight of his teary eyes and red face.
“ Natasha ,” Steve said somehow making her name sound like an endearment and a reprimand at the same time.
“I’m only offering because you’re my friend Steve,” she said with a shrug and a smile, “Might not like seeing you upset or something.”
He pulled her into one of his trademark bone squeezing hugs. She smiled against his muscled chest.
“Or something,” he teased, “ By the way, I thought you stopped doing that.”
She stepped out of his arms and scuffed her boot against his step.
“I mostly have,” she said picking invisible lint from her coat.
He didn’t say anything, he knew better than to judge but she did see the muscles in his jaw flexed when he clenched his teeth against a tirade of concern.
“I should be going,” she said.
Steve nodded and walked her back to her mount so he could give Widow a carrot and a ridiculous amount of pets.
Steve watched his friend go with a heavy heart then set about doing the monotonous job of putting away his supplies. Painful memories were no excuse for letting good food and clean sheets go to waste.
Soft snowfall began when he was halfway through and he spared a thought for his friend riding home. She was clever and capable but he worried just the same.
Hours later, after dinner had been cooked or eaten Steve closed up the house and got ready for bed. He closed most of the windows in his house now that the nights were getting colder though he still liked to keep the ones in his bedroom open.
He spared a few glances at the view, appreciating the way the snow blanketed the yard and the mountains beyond, a pillowy softness in the night. Sighing at the emotional rollercoaster the day had been, he pulled on his pajamas and slid into bed.
What he failed to notice was that outback, in the gazebo near the treeline, a figure was also staring at the night sky, huddled under an inadequate coat and waiting for sleep to come.
The morning came, cool and bright waking Steve early with the sounds of birdcall and a chilly breeze. He sat up in bed and stretched his back cracking from yesterday’s physical exertion.
Scratching mindlessly at his beard, Steve stood to go feed Cap and his stomach rumbled unpleasantly and he rolled his eyes. He was always hungry, a function of his large stature and his alpha nature.
The dog was waiting for him in the kitchen but not beside his bowl where he usually waited, instead his nose was pressed to the glass of the patio doors, his gaze intent on the gazebo out back. He let out a series of boofs when Steve approached, a sound he usually used to get his owner’s attention unless it was an emergency that required real barks.
“Gotta use the bathroom pal?” Steve asked him, unlatching the door, “You can go out, but if you’re just harassing squirrels and deer again, you’re getting dry kibble for breakfast.”
Steve opened the back door and watched his dog take off like a rocket. He mentally prepared himself to have to wrest some poor creature away from Cap only to jerk in surprise when the door began barking at full volume racing back to Steve then out again toward the gazebo.
Concerned Steve bolted out the door and followed Cap, too worried to even slide on shoes though his frigid toes immediately hated him for it as he stepped into foot deep snow.
The cold was immediately forgotten however when he laid eyes on what Cap had found.
The male was barely awake and sluggish, his teeth chattering as he shivered in his thin jacket and sweater.
Steve fought down his initial wave of panic and tried to remember what he'd learned about survival training in the military.
People suffering from hypothermia were to be handled gently and movement was to be kept minimal if it was necessary. The snow was still falling intermittently and it was damned cold besides so movement was, unfortunately, necessary.
Steve leaned in slow, telegraphing his movements as he made to pick up the omega bridal style.
"My name is Steve, " he said softly, "We met yesterday. I mean you no harm but I gotta get you inside so you can warm up, ok?"
He didn't expect a response, not with how tough a time the man was having but he managed a tiny nod and Steve gave him his most reassuring smile in return.
Bucky didn't weigh much in Steve's strong arms which allowed the alpha to move in a quick, steady pace into the house. He would've flat out run but that would've jostled the other man too much for Steve’s liking so he made do with a brisk stride.
Once inside Steve made a beeline for the nearest bed mindless that it was his own as he laid Bucky down and began stripping away the heavy wet clothing he wore.
Bucky's eyes widened and his overworked muscles tried to tense which led him to whimper in pain. Steve felt an answering rumble in his chest and he blushed heavily as the omega stared in surprise. Steve wanted to apologize, to explain that it was an alpha's nature to soothe a distraught omega but there was no time. The longer Bucky went without warm clothes, blankets, and fluids, the more danger he was in.
"I ain't gonna hurt ya, pal, " Steve promised, "I just need you warm and dry. These clothes are sapping your body heat. So either you take em off while I go grab towels or you let me help but we're running outta time. "
Bucky tried to lift his arms and remove his shirt but his arms were stiff and soon there were tears in his eyes.
"I got ya, I got ya, " Steve soothed pulling off Bucky's sweater and jeans. Next off were the wet socks leaving him in only a pair of clingy pale gray boxer briefs. Steve blushed from the roots of his hair to his belly button as he dragged his eyes away from the sight and back to Bucky's face.
"I'll let you handle your drawers while I get the towels, " Steve said matter of factly, "Be back in a flash. "
He race walked from the room, snagging a pair of socks for himself as he went. He dried and covered his feet in the hallway then went to the linen closet. Steve grabbed a small stack of towels to dry Bucky with and another blanket for extra warmth.
Back in the bedroom he gave Bucky the towels and told him to pat himself dry as best he could, not rub since that could send cold blood back to his heart and cause more damage. Steve gave his charge fresh warm socks and a pair of pajamas; shirt and pants to wear instructing him to dress while Steve made cocoa.
The warmth and sugar from the cocoa would help stave off shock and it would distract Steve's mind from the enticing image of a beautiful omega in his bed though he kept that thought to himself.
When he returned with the drink and heated blanket, he found Bucky with a little more color to his skin but sleepy eyes.
“Much better,” Steve said approvingly, setting the tray with cocoa and toast on the bed, “I know you’re tired but I need you to eat and drink some first then I’ll let you be for a nap.”
He passed over two slices of buttered toast and the mug of cocoa, eating his own efficiently and watching the omega from the corner of his eye.
Bucky’s face regained color slowly but he ate gamely enough and finished the cocoa with a contented sigh. Steve wanted to feed him up more but he knew that had to wait. Too much too soon could send the man into shock and with them being so far from town and help of any kind, Steve didn’t want to risk it.
“Good job,” Steve said, rising to his feet, “I’m going to go clean up your clothes and feed the dog. You get some rest and I’ll come to check on you a little later okay?”
Bucky nodded then blushed and cleared his throat as Steve cleaned up the dishes and made to leave.
“Th-Thank you,” he rasped quietly.
Steve dipped his head in a small nod of his own. “You’re welcome,” he said, “I’m just glad you’re alright. Rest now, I’ll wake you for lunch.”
The bedroom door was closed enough to block the alpha’s retreat and Bucky finally allowed himself to settle back against the pillows. His hands were shaking and tears pricked the corners of his eyes.
It had all happened so fast.
He hadn’t realized it was going to snow last night, otherwise, he wouldn’t have camped out in the gazebo. By the time he’d realized his mistake it had been far too dark to set off again on foot and his earlier interaction with the alpha who’s house he was now recovering in, had made asking for help seem impossible.
So he’d shivered and prayed in his inadequate coat hoping the storm would pass soon and he could return home to beg for forgiveness. Instead, the cold had rapidly stolen his strength and he’d passed out, his arms wrapped around his knees and fingers frozen from the cold.
Waking up in the alpha’s arms had been a shock, the male whispering urgently to him as he was pressed against a firm, warm chest and carried inside like a bride. Higher thinking had taken a while to return which had led him to be afraid of the male until it finally seeped into his frozen brain that Steve was trying to help and not harm him.
Bucky licked his lips and tasted the faint hint of chocolate from his cocoa and smiled. It had been like something from a fantasy to see the handsome alpha bring him food in bed and it had taken all of Bucky’s not so little strength not to melt into a puddle of goo when Steve began laying on the praise when Bucky managed simple tasks.
He’d always imagined himself caring for his future mate, providing and caring for them, he’d never really bothered picturing the reverse despite his omega designation so it surprised him how much he liked it.
Shaking his head, Bucky scrubbed his palms over his face, “Get ahold of yourself,” he muttered, “He was just trying to keep you alive you idiot. The minute this storm passes we’re out on our ass again, I guarantee it.”
The sad reality of it stole away the last of Bucky’s good mood and he grumpily burrowed beneath the ample blankets, his body still holding a lingering chill.
Everything smelled fresh and inviting like clean laundry and healthy alpha male making Bucky’s heart race a little. “Stop it,” he snapped, “Go to sleep. We’re gonna need it.”
Eventually, he stopped squirming and resigned himself to a late morning nap secretly enjoying the knowledge that he was wrapped in his handsome rescuer’s comforting enticing scent.
Steve dumped Bucky’s clothes into the laundry along with the used towels then padded into the kitchen to feed Cap.
The dog was following at his heels and had seemed reluctant to leave Bucky alone in the bedroom, Steve had felt the same though he’d never admit it, but the lure of breakfast had been too strong for them both.
Steve fed Cap first, adding some fruit as a treat since the dog had been a hero that morning then set about making himself some eggs. He ate standing up, depositing his plate in the sink as soon as he was finished then immediately went into the living room to start a fire in the fireplace.
He knew he was freaking out a little, his movement a little too forceful, his body unwilling to sit or be still for too long but he was unwilling to think about why.
It wouldn’t do him any good, he reasoned with himself. Obsessing over the past, the things he’d done and his myriad of failures. No, he needed to be present for Bucky. The male was doing okay for the moment but Steve didn’t want to take any chances.
Once he had a healthy fire going he sat back on his haunches on the rug and contemplated his next steps. Outside the snow had ramped up again, the landscape transformed into a snowglobe with fat heavy flakes falling quickly enough to white out the yard and the lane beyond. It was clear Bucky would be staying for a while. Steve had a horse, a Friesian named Brooklyn but taking him out in whiteout conditions was less than ideal.
Resigned to having a houseguest, Steve got up and looked around for Cap but didn’t see him and rolled his eyes. Likely the dog was napping somewhere or hiding in the place where Steve’s missing socks lived. Steve narrowed his eyes, one day he’d find Cap’s stash, he just had to be patient.
Chuckling to himself, Steve set about checking on his latest commission which was drying on the far wall safely away from the fire and its heat and soot. He made his money as a painter, taking commissions as they came and selling other pieces during summer fairs. This one was of a family Natasha knew and he smiled wistfully looking at it.
Once upon a time, he’d thought he’d have something like what he’d captured on the canvas in front of him. A family, with a happy mate to hold and some kids at his feet.
Instead, he had guilt, loneliness, and a stranger sleeping off potential hypothermia in his bed. Steve sighed, “Get over yourself,” he muttered, “There’s work to do.”
With that, he lifted his brush and got to work.
Bucky couldn’t see the sun when he woke up, there was too much snow falling for that but he knew hours had passed by the way the weak light filtered through the blinds. He rolled onto his back and stiffened immediately as something warm and solid moved beside him.
Sitting up quickly Bucky realized two things, one was that his muscles still ached from a day of riding in a linen chest then locking up in hypothermia and two, he wasn’t alone in the bed. Beside him, a large black and white dog lay sprawled across the covers, his head resting on Bucky’s hip and his eyes on Bucky’s face.
“Hello you,” Bucky said tentatively, “What’s your name?”
The dog’s tongue lolled out in a happy doggy smile and he nosed at Bucky’s hand until he got the ear scratches he wanted.
Bucky was happy to pet the dog, his family had never been allowed pets as there were already too many mouths to feed on the farm but Bucky’d always wanted a dog.
A red collar was around the dog’s neck and a silver plate declared his name to be Cap. Bucky smiled, “Nice to meet you, Cap,” he said, “You saved me today buddy.”
Hazy memories of loud barking and a gentle tongue licking his frigid toes as he’d dried off passed through Bucky’s head making him smile. He leaned down to kiss the dog’s nose and got licked on his chin for his trouble. Laughing loudly Bucky wiped off the dog slobber and sunk his fingers into Cap’s thick belly fur tickling him into play.
The dog barked happily and rolled up onto all fours trying to steal Bucky’s blankets which he held gently in his large jaws.
“Oh no, you don’t!” Bucky cried, playing tug of war with the dog, “Those are mine pal and I’m not giving them up so easy.”
Caught up in his game, Bucky failed to notice that Steve had returned. The alpha was leaning against the doorjamb, large arms crossed over his broad chest with a sad smile on his face as he watched them play.
Finally, Bucky freed the comforter from Cap, likely because he’d realized his owner was watching and he wanted more pets. Bucky threw his arms up in triumph only to whip them back down to his lap when he finally realized he wasn’t alone.
Face burning Bucky opened his mouth to explain but Steve spoke first.
“Lunch is ready.”