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Bucky wakes up out of a dead sleep with Steve screaming in his head, panicked out of his mind. He’s confused and scared and Steve is still panicking in his head and all that’s coming through their bond is anguish and fear and--

His phone starts ringing, and he practically falls out of bed grabbing for it.

Sam doesn’t wait for him to say anything, “You need to get up here RIGHT THE FUCK NOW.”

“Is Steve there?”

“YES. GET UP HERE.”

“THE SUN HASN’T SET YET!”

“It’s dark enough, man! Get up here!”

Bucky pulls on a pair of pants and risks a peek out the front window. He can feel that the sun hasn’t quite fully descended below the horizon, but it’s late enough in the day that he thinks he can probably risk running upstairs and into Sam’s house.

“Make sure the door is open,” he says, before he hangs up and tosses his phone on the nearest flat surface. He dashes back to their room to grab a bathrobe and drape it over himself as best he can, and he sprints—using all of his vampire speed, which is considerable--upstairs and into Sam’s house.

“Sorry man,” Sam says as he shuts the door. “We can’t get near him. Bruce is all hulked out cuz Steve shocked him. It’s gonna take him hours to calm down. It’s not Steve’s fault--”

Bucky just glares at him. Sam is immune at this point, but Bucky glares anyway.

Sam just shrugs. “Glad you’re here, though, maybe you can get him calmed down enough to stop like. Crackling. Scorching my floors.”

“Whut.”

“You’ll see. C’mon, he’s in the bathroom in the back.”

Bucky follows Sam through the house. Even from the hall, he can hear an ominous crackling noise. And Steve is definitely talking to himself. He’s still all panicked, his thoughts running through Bucky’s head in a jumble, none of them in their normal grooves through Bucky’s brain, and it’s making his head hurt. And the panic. He can feel Steve’s panic, his fear that he’ll never be able to stop.

He knocks on the bathroom door. “Stevie, let me in.”

Steve’s panic spikes momentarily, before he tamps down on it. Bucky can feel him tamping down on it, and that is a new thing for sure. “No,” he calls out, his voice tremulous. “I’ll hurt you.”

“Steve, you won’t. Unlock the door.”

“No, go away!”

Bucky takes a deep breath, not that he needs it. “Steve.”

“Buck, I mean it. I’ll hurt you.”

Bucky breaks down the door. He only vaguely hear’s Sam’s, “Aw, c’mon man!” from the other room.

Steve is huddled in the corner of the tiny room, surrounded by scorch marks. He’s crackling, lightning licking along his skin, through his hair, in his eyes. He looks up at Bucky and tries to ward him off. There are tear tracks on his face.

“Buck, I don’t know if I can stop it--”

All Bucky can feel is terror, and he hates that Steve is so afraid.

“C’mon sweetheart,” he starts to say, reaching for Steve, but Steve holds out his crackling hands, warding him off.

“No. No, no, no, I’ll hurt you.”

“You won’t,” Bucky assures him. He doesn’t know how he knows, but he’s certain of it.

He doesn’t hesitate, doesn’t wait for Steve to protest further, he scoops him up and starts heading for the door. The sun is gone now, there’s no longer any danger to him.

The danger now is to Steve, who seems to have gone haywire somehow.

Steve keeps crackling, and the sound every time a bolt of lightning arcs off of him and hits the floor is frankly terrifying, but to Bucky it just feels like warmth and Steve. Maybe a little static electricity, but that’s not so bad. He can handle that. Even if it hurt, Bucky wouldn’t let go of Steve. Every protective instinct he has is in overdrive, because Steve is his just as he is Steve’s, and they protect and take care of each other.

Steve clings to him, pressing his face i to Bucky’s neck. Bucky hurries back downstairs to their place, murmuring soothing gibberish in Steve’s ear the whole way.

(He can’t quite use his speed with Steve in his arms. They’ve tried it once or twice, and it makes Steve nauseous. He doesn’t need that right now.)

Once he’s there, Bucky realizes he doesn’t know where he can take Steve, where in their apartment is safe.

“My workroom,” Steve mumbles.

“You sure?” Bucky asks.

Steve nods against his neck, and Bucky carries him down the hall to the workroom, where he turns in a circle trying to decide what to do for a minute before he simply drops to the floor with Steve still in his arms.

A moment later, the candles arrayed in a circle erupt into flame--far larger flames than normal, but not so much so that Bucky starts to worry--and Bucky feels the protective barrier they form spring into life.

They stay like that for a long time. Steve calms down slowly, and as he calms, the lightning tapers off.

Bucky keeps up his patter the whole time, soothing nonsense mostly, and does his best to feel calm and collected and safe at Steve as well. He feels it right along with Steve as he calms down, catches his breath, and the power bleeds slowly out of him and into the earth below the house.

Eventually, Steve lets go of Bucky and sits back a bit, wiping at his face, rubbing his eyes. He takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly. An errant bit of lightning crackles through his eyes and subsides.

Bucky brushes his hair out of his face and kisses him softly. “Ok?”

Steve laughs shakily. “I guess?”

Bucky leans forward a bit, and Steve does too, and their foreheads meet. Steve takes another deep breath.

“Do you have any plans for today?” Bucky asks, eventually.

Steve shrugs, and then speaks up. “I was gonna go over to Wanda’s for a bit later, after the shop closes. She wanted me to bring over my tarot deck so we could do some readings and maybe some casting.”

Bucky makes an “mmm” noise, and Steve chuckles, “Just a couple hexes, Buck.”

“Liar,” Bucky replies, teasing.

“Yup. I was going to help her with the wards on the shop. She wanted some input.”

“You’re very good at those.”

“Well, I had a lot of practice.”

Bucky hugs him, and then stands up with Steve in his arms. Steve squawks, clinging to him. As though Bucky would ever let him fall.

“Bucky, I can walk!”

He nods. “I know you can, Stevie. Break the circle?”

Steve does so with a wave of his hand, and Bucky heads out of the workroom and into their bedroom. He puts Steve down on his side of the bed and casts about for his phone. “Do you want to text Wanda?”

Steve reaches out for the phone and then hesitates, making a face like he doesn’t know if that’s safe or not. “Could you do it?”

“Of course, sweetheart.” Bucky unlocks the phone instead of handing it to Steve.

‘Wanda this is Bucky. Steve is fine but he had a power surge this afternoon (??) and he’s gonna stay in tonight.’

Wanda’s reply comes through only a moment later. ‘Ah, was wondering what that was. Give him my love, I’ll see him soon.’

Bucky wonders what she means by that first part, but he dutifully reads the text to Steve, who nods.

“Staying in bed sound good for tonight?” Bucky asks, putting Steve’s phone down on his nightstand.

Steve nods again. “Are you staying with me?”

“Of course. I have no plans.”

“Good.”

While Steve snuggles down into the pile of blankets they keep on the bed—even during the summer—Bucky goes about getting together everything they could possibly need for a night spent in bed. He grabs some snacks for Steve from the kitchen, and water, as well as one of their laptops and the book He’d left in the living room when he went to bed that morning.

He comes back and dumps everything on the bed, and starts getting situated.

“I still think we should just get a TV in here, Steve,” he says.

“No,” Steve replies. He hasn’t budged an inch. “The bedroom is for sleeping, not for TV.”

He has very strong opinions on the matter, and Bucky doesn’t care enough to actually fight him on it, so the TV stays out of their room, and it’s only an issue on days like this one.

But the laptop will do.

“Well, don’t complain about the screen being too small. And put on your glasses.”

Steve grumbles a bit, but he puts on his glasses. Bucky wants nothing more than to coddle Steve into a stupor, to hold him and protect him.

“Gross,” Steve says. Because Steve is more than capable of taking care of himself, as he often reminds Bucky. It’s not as often as it once was, when their bond was still new and they were still in the first stages of their relationship. Bucky likes to think that Steve has softened his stance a little.

Or perhaps it’s just that he’s come to understand that Bucky wants to care for him, and help him, and doesn't want to handle him or command him.

It’s been a slow process, but Bucky likes to think they’re doing pretty well. He also allows Steve to care for him in ways that he’s never let anyone else care for him.

The pack teases him for it pretty relentlessly, but that’s just part of being in a pack. You get treated like family, and you have to give as good as you get.

Speaking of the pack. Bucky finishes getting the snacks and drinks settled within Steve’s easy reach and goes back to the living room to get his own phone. He texts Peggy on his way back down the hall.

‘Steve had a weird power surge thing, any idea what that might be about?’

Peggy might know; she’s been doing research that Bucky pretends he doesn’t know about, into the history of soulbonds like Bucky has with Steve, and the effects and (hopefully) benefits. She hasn’t shared much yet; Bucky doesn’t know how far she’s gotten or not gotten, but she’s his first stop. Peggy is his first stop for a lot of things.

His second will be to text Wanda from his own phone and ask if she knows anything about stuff like what just happened to Steve.

He seems better now, at least. Not sparking anymore. Not likely to set their bed aflame, at least not accidentally.

Bucky’s pretty sure Steve has no reason to set it on fire on purpose either. He’s pretty sure Steve would talk to him before it got to that point between them. He’s by no means perfect--neither is Bucky--but he’s better at talking to Bucky than he was when this first started between them.

Things are pretty good. Other than the issue with the lightning.

So. Maybe not so good, but the issue isn’t between them, anyway.

Steve looks tired, but Bucky is pretty sure he shouldn’t voice that. Not that Steve won’t feel his worry and his concern anyway, because Steve shares all of his emotions unless he works really hard to keep them from him.

Most of the time, Bucky just doesn’t see the point. It keeps things honest between them, just like him being able to read a lot of Steve’s thoughts keeps things honest between them. Now that they’ve both accepted that things go a lot smoother.

When he climbs into bed on his side, Steve turns to him immediately, and Bucky opens his arms so Steve can snuggle close. They get settled and comfortable together, and Steve reaches out to grab the laptop and then his bottle of water.

Bucky grabs his phone and sends a text to Wanda to ask her if she knows anything about power surges like Steve just had.

He hates calling it a power surge, it makes Steve sound like he’s not a person, but he also can’t think of any other way to describe it. It had been an excess of power that he hadn’t had any control over.

Steve nudges him, not looking at him while he scrolls through Netflix looking for something to watch. “You’re worrying too loud, Buck.”

Bucky chuckles, but he tries to tamp down on it a bit. “Sorry.”

“No, you’re not,” Steve intones.

“No,” Bucky agrees. “I’m not. Not really.”

They settle in to watch Sabrina. Bucky is pretty sure it’s mostly so Steve can rant about the inaccuracies and the whole construct of Satan.

--

The rest of the evening passes uneventfully. They snuggle in bed, cozy and warm with the electric blanket turned on. Steve has plenty of snacks, and when his stomach rumbles Bucky orders take out for him.

Steve eventually admits that the power surge thing had really taken a lot out of him, even though Bucky was already well aware of that, just from the way Steve has been slumped against him, sleepy and clingy with it.

He rouses somewhere near dawn though, suddenly worried about Bucky (and Bucky doesn’t know what to do with the fact that he can feel Steve’s worry in addition to being able to infer it from the tenor of his thoughts).

Bucky leans back and looks at Steve. “What?”

“You were supposed to go out and feed tonight!”

Bucky shrugs. He was, but he’s OK. Not in any danger of uncontrollable bloodlust at the very least. A bit peckish, if he thinks about it, but nothing to worry about.

He hasn’t broached the subject with Steve because he doesn’t want Steve to feel guilty about his limits or like he needs to push himself to be more OK with Bucky feeding from him, but since they’ve progressed to a place where Steve is OK with Bucky taking small little sips from him sometimes--his neck is a hard limit, as is even the hint of sex being involved with the feeding, even though he’s very OK with being sucked on in various places during sex--Bucky has noticed that he doesn’t seem to need to feed as much or as often from others.

He’s pretty sure the soulbond isn’t meant to make them completely symbiotic, but he definitely thinks it’s making him stronger, able to go longer between feedings.

But he hasn’t told Steve, because he needs to confirm it first.

Now though, he shakes his head. “I’m OK, Steve. I’ll text the pack and see if anyone can come over tomorrow night for a nosh.”

Steve blinks at him for a moment. “You just referred to feeding on one of the wolves as a nosh.”

“Sure did.” Bucky grins at him.

“You’re gross.”

“Your face is gross.”

“You love my face.”

“I do, yeah.” And Bucky kisses him. He thinks the moment has passed, and Steve kisses him back with enthusiasm, and that’s all very nice and Bucky is on board for whatever Steve wants.

But when the kiss ends, Steve says, “You should drink from me, Buck.”

“Steve.”

“What? I’ve been doing good with it! We’re making progress.”

“You’ve also kinda had. You know. A day. I’m not sure that’s a good idea tonight.”

Steve gets that angry pout he does when he’s mad but knows he’s not entirely in the right, and Bucky resists the urge to smile at him.

“I promise Steve, I’ll be fine for another day. There won’t be any rampaging from me. My rampaging days are over, anyway.”

Steve pokes him. “That’s not funny.”

“It’s a little funny.”

“Buck, it’s really not. You’re the Winter Soldier.”

Bucky shrugs. “I’m allowed to deal with my trauma with humor.”

Steve scowls. “You’ve had too much therapy.”

Bucky does laugh this time. “Pot, kettle.”

Steve just shrugs at that, and slumps against Bucky again. “You could if you wanted to, though.”

“Could what?” Bucky is already distracted by the smell of Steve’s hair, the smell of Steve, of comfort and home. It’s definitely almost time for bed, if he’s getting this scent-oriented.

Next thing he’ll be turning into a wolf, too.

“You could bite me, if you want. I am OK with that right now.”

Steve isn’t always OK with it. But he’s worked really hard--they have worked really hard, together--to get to a point where the thought of Bucky drinking from him doesn’t sent him into blind panic and/or total dissociation.

Steve has done the vast majority of the work, it’s true. And Bucky is so proud of him. And, incidentally, thrilled that he sometimes gets to sustain himself from his soul-bonded. It’s a territorial thing, and a vampire thing, and a Bucky loves Steve thing.

But for now, he’ll abstain. He doesn’t know what it would do to Steve, to take blood from him right now. He doesn’t know what Steve’s blood would do to him right now, and he doesn’t have the time to go run off any excess energy he might end up with, if it ends up having a similar effect to what drinking from one of the pack has.

So he’ll wait. He’ll wait, and tomorrow they’ll start to figure out what happened to Steve and what it means.

--

He’s alone in the bed when he wakes up the next evening, and when he thinks about it while he’s stretching he vaguely remembers being jostled when Steve had gotten up a little while. He remembers--or he dreamed--Steve giving him a kiss and letting him know he wouldn’t go anywhere before Bucky got up.

Bucky snuggles down into the warmth of the pile of blankets and instead of yelling for Steve, or texting him or anything like that, he just. Speaks to him telepathically.

He tries not to do that too terribly often, not because he doesn’t like that he can do it, but because it tends to startle Steve when he does it. And he does his best to give Steve as much of the privacy of his own mind as he can. They’re already inextricably intertwined, and living in each other’s pockets besides, he doesn't need to make it worse.

Not that he thinks speaking telepathically to Steve makes it worse. He just. Doesn’t want to intrude. That’s the real crux of the matter.

‘I’m awake,’ is all he says. Steve can come say hello if he wants, or not. Steve can text him if he doesn’t want to come say good morning (or evening, as the case may be. Bucky thinks of it as morning, but Steve isn’t completely nocturnal like he is).

Only a few moments later, the door of their bedroom opens and Steve comes in. He’s got his laptop under one arm, and a mug of what is probably coffee in his other hand.

“Morning,” he says, cheerfully enough. “Sleep alright, Buck?”

“Yeah, it was good. You comin’ back to bed, sweetheart?”

Steve shrugs, even as he’s plugging his laptop into the charging cord next to the bed and setting his coffee down on the nightstand, getting into bed next to Bucky. He opens the laptop when he’s settled and tilts it a bit so Bucky can see what he’s looking at, if he wants.

“I’ve been trying to do a little research,” he starts.

Bucky makes a humming noise that he hopes is encouraging.

“Yeah, it hasn’t gone well so far. I think I’m going to have to go talk to Wanda, and maybe Pepper.”

Bucky makes an ‘ugh’ sound, because if Steve goes to see Pepper, he’ll have to go with him, and he’ll have to deal with Tony.

As far as Masters of Cities go, Tony is by far the most easy-going one that Bucky’s ever met. But he’s kind of a pain in the ass, too.

“I know, Buck,” Steve says. “I’ll go talk to Wanda first, and I’ll let you know if we have to go to Manhattan. It’ll have to be arranged and shit.”

“Yeah,” Bucky agrees, begrudgingly. “Maybe talk to Natasha as well?”

“Oh, good idea. She might have some insight.”

“Or she might tell you to make sure you get yourself extra crispy so she can eat you like a french fry.”

“Buck, that’s gross.”

Bucky shrugs. He has a very healthy respect slash fear of Natasha. Mostly he’s just glad that she seems to really like Steve, so at least his jokes about her eating them all extra crispy with ketchup are just that: jokes. At least in Steve’s case.

Well, in his too, he’d probably just turn to ash.

“You’re very morbid for so early in the day,” Steve observes, giving him a look. “Do you need to eat?”

Bucky shrugs. “Yeah, probably.”

“Oh, that reminds me. Pegs is sending Dum Dum over in a bit.”

Bucky nods. That’s good, although he’ll admit to a bit of sadness that Steve’s offer of a vein isn’t standing. Even if it’s probably not a great idea right now.

Steve looks at him again. “This weekend, maybe. You said it yourself, it might not be a great idea right now with the thing yesterday.”

“That’ll teach me to turn down blood.”

“Yes it will.” Steve grins at him and goes back to his internet research.

Bucky lazes about in bed until Dum Dum shows up, barging into the apartment with a shouted, “Honey, I’m home!”

Steve and Bucky exchange a glance, and Steve gathers up his now empty mug and his laptop. “I’ll be in the workshop.”

Bucky reaches out to him as he gets up, letting his fingers trail down Steve’s arm. He makes sure he’s projecting a lot of ‘come back to bed, baby’, but all he says is, “OK.”

Steve glances at him over his shoulder, smiling and feeling very wanted for a moment.

Bucky has to blink through the feeling of it, his own longing reflected back at him through Steve. It gives him a headrush. The moment is broken though, when Dum Dum and Steve meet just outside the room.

“Am I interrupting,” he asks, glancing between Steve, still in pajamas and looking delightfully rumpled, and Bucky, who hasn’t even bothered to put a shirt on and is still sprawled in bed.

“No,” Steve says, at the same time Bucky drawls, “Always.”

Dum Dum makes a face that Bucky knows damn well is intended to rile at least him up, if not both of them, and shrugs. “Sorry not sorry. Sarge, you ready to set upon me like a thief in the night?”

Steve snorts and heads down the hall to his workshop. Bucky can practically feel him rolling his eyes.

Bucky levers himself out of bed and grabs a shirt off the floor. “Yeah, come on down to the living room. No bloodletting in the bedroom.”

“Unless you’re into that sort of thing,” Dum Dum leers, waggling his eyebrows.

“Asshole,” Bucky mutters.

“I heard that,” Steve adds as they pass his workshop. He is very much talking to Dum Dum.

“Sorry!” Dum Dum sings as he goes down the hall.

Bucky stops in the doorway to just. Look at Steve for a minute. Steve shoos him away, but he’s blushing, too.

Dum Dum is already sitting on the couch when Bucky gets to the living room, with a towel and everything.

“C’mon, man,” Bucky whines, gesturing at the towel. “I’m not a messy eater.”

Dum Dum just gives him a look. “As if your tiny boyfriend wouldn’t have my head if I let you get my blood on your couch.”

“Point.”

“Better safe than sorry. Anyway, pick a vein, Sarge. Any vein.”

“Yeah, I’ll just take a wrist like a normal person, Dugan.”

“Aw, you’re no fun. Sure you don’t want my jugular?”

“Ok, first of all: no. Second of all: I don’t need that much blood, damn, do you want to accidentally half bleed out in my living room? And third--”

“Keep your mitts off my boyfriend!” Steve yells from the workshop.

Dugan blinks for a minute, shocked. “He has crazy hearing.”

“He does. Also, you talk loud.”

“Like, that’s like wolf hearing.”

“I know.” And Bucky thinks at Steve, ‘thanks, babe.’

He can’t quite hear Steve’s laugh, and he suspects that Steve is muffling it, but he can certainly feel his mirth.

The bloodletting only takes a few minutes, because Bucky is old enough that he really isn’t a messy eater, and he definitely hasn’t been needing as much blood to sustain himself as he used to.

He doesn’t know how much of that is the bond with Steve, or the pack and his own sense of safety, or if it’s just age. He doesn’t know, but for now he doesn’t really care.

Once he’s finished, he gets Dum Dum some bandages and a snack; the wolves always have a snack after Bucky feeds from one of them. They’d learned it from the Red Cross.

Bucky and Dugan chat for a while, while he has his snack and some juice. Peggy’s gotten leads on a couple of jobs coming up. Nothing huge like the one that had led them to Steve, a couple of protection details, a bounty she hasn’t decided if they’re actually going to go after or not.

Morita and Dernier are at the house for the time being, checking in on it to make sure that no one has vandalized the place. They’d left it pretty secure, and the locals had always been wary of the place, even the dumb teenagers who would normally be all over the place with the rumored evil villain type vampire living there, but the pack likes the place and more than that they like the grounds, so they cycle through who goes back and when.

Steve comes out of his workshop when Dum Dum is almost finished his soda, pours himself a glass of water and sits down next to Bucky at the table. He’s got his phone with him, but he’s left his laptop in the workshop.

He leans again Bucky until he shifts and puts his arm around him, and mostly listens while Dum Dum finishes filling Bucky in on all of the goings on and upcoming stuff for the pack.

Bucky has been sort of taking an unspoken sabbatical from the group since they’d taken out Pierce and he’d bound himself to Steve. He wants to get back to work, he likes what they do. They help people. But he’s not sure how to broach the subject with Steve.

And now with the thing yesterday, he definitely doesn’t want to leave Steve on his own for a bit. Steve will hate that. He doesn’t want or need to be coddled, no matter how protective Bucky feels.

And Bucky knows that. A lot of it is vampire instinct. He’s territorial, and Steve is his territory.

He’s working on it.

No one brings up what had happened to Steve yesterday, although Bucky is sure that Dugan knows about it. He’s sure the whole pack knows about it. Hell, Tony probably already knows about it. The supernatural community even in New York is pretty small and very insular. Things get around quite quickly.

Dugan heads out once he’s finished his snack, after a round of hugs and “take care”s and a “you should probably call Peggy.”

He always says that whenever he parts ways with any of the pack or Steve, or Bucky. It had started out as a joke and now it’s just habit.

It’s also almost always a good idea.

“I’ll call Peggy in the morning,” Steve says when Dugan is gone.

Bucky chuckles and tugs Steve into a loose hug, standing in the kitchen. Steve slumps a little against him, and Bucky knows that he’s still pretty worn out. He wishes Steve would take it easy tonight, but Steve doesn’t know how to quit.

“I gotta text Wanda back,” Steve mumbles into Bucky’s chest.

“Ok.”

“Gimme a minute.”

“Take all the time you need, Stevie.”

“Thanks, Buck.”

“I got your back, pal.” Bucky rests his chin on Steve’s head, and they stay like that for a bit.

--

Steve does pull away from Bucky after a while, and he sits back down at the table to finish his water and text Wanda.

“You doing anything tonight?” he asks, tapping away at the phone.

Bucky shrugs. “I have some paperwork to do for Pegs and the boys, gotta bug Morita for his expense reports, but otherwise nothing really planned. (Bucky does most of the office work for the pack now, since he’s not doing much in the field, and also because paperwork is not a strength of any of the wolves except perhaps Peggy. And well, Peggy’s the one in charge, so she delegates most of it to Bucky anyway. He doesn't mind, he finds the details of it soothing, and he feels like he’s contributing even if he’s not in the field.)

“Do you wanna go to Wanda’s with me for a bit?”

“If you want me to, sure.”

Steve shrugs and concentrates on his phone. After a few moments of silence, he speaks again, “I want you to, yeah.”

“Then I will.”

Steve blushes a bit. “Thanks, Buck.”

Bucky just feels at him, love and lust and a bit of exasperation because Steve is much better at using his words yes, but he still gets embarrassed by having emotions. Embarrassed and often overwhelmed.

Steve blushes harder, but he’s grinning at his phone now, and Bucky can feel a bit of what he’s feeling coming back at him.

“Steve I think I’m starting to feel your emotions too,” he blurts out.

Well, that wasn’t how he’d planned to bring that up.

Steve is looking at him now, his eyes wide. He blinks a few times, and Bucky feels nothing but surprise and curiosity from him.

“When did this happen?” he asks, after a while. His phone is forgotten on the table, even though it keeps lighting up with notifications.

“I think it’s been trickling in for a while, but I noticed yesterday, when the thing happened.”

“The power surge?”

It’s Bucky’s turn to blink. “Did I call it that out loud?”

Steve shakes his head. “But I think you thought it a few times. Huh.”

Bucky snorts. “Yeah, huh.”

They’re both quiet for a bit.

“This is probably a good thing, right?” Steve asks.

Bucky shrugs. “Yeah, most likely. We’re getting stronger, the bond is getting stronger, or something like that. Do you think the thing yesterday is the thing you’ve been worried about?”

Steve shakes his head, then shrugs, then nods. “I have no idea, Buck. I’m gonna go shower and get dressed.”

Bucky lets him go.

He works on that paperwork while Steve is showering and dressing, but his heart’s not really in it. He does send Morita a couple of threatening texts about his expense reports, but all he gets back is cry-laughing emojis. Which is about what he’d expected, if he’s honest about it.

When he hears Steve come out of the bathroom and head to their room, he follows after, because he probably shouldn’t show up to Wanda’s in boxer briefs that are as likely to be Steve’s as his own and a t-shirt that’s so old the term vintage could only be an aspiration.

So instead he changes into tight jeans and a different t-shirt, throws on one of Steve’s oversized flannels, his leather jacket and comfiest combat boots.

Steve somehow ends up the picture of preppy, which is a new look for him. It both fits him perfectly, and is completely incongruous with the way Bucky sees him, in his head. Bucky likes it though, and he makes sure Steve knows it.

“Yeah?” Steve asks. “Thought I’d give this a try. It’s a lot more work than I think I’d want to do regularly, though.”

Regularly they both prefer comfort to anything approaching style. Bucky may be a creature of the night, but he’s also a big fan of the current athleisure trend.

They head out shortly thereafter, walking towards the subway stop so they can get to Wanda’s.

The trains are more or less empty at this time of night, occupied mostly by other supernatural folk and the regular humans who work night hours. Steve and Bucky get seats and sit close together, Steve’s arm tucked through Bucky’s. Steve rests his head on his shoulder and taps at his phone while the train moves down the tracks. Bucky sinks into himself, drifting along with the way Steve’s thoughts flow through his head like water, comfortable and comforting, making their way along the grooves they’ve carved through Bucky’s mind.

Steve seems entirely himself tonight, but also a bit on edge, and Bucky can understand it. They haven’t really talked about it yet, which he doesn’t like. He thinks he should’ve taken the time earlier, after Dum Dum had left, to sit down with Steve and discuss this.

What happened? What set it off? Were there any symptoms, looking back?

“You’re thinking awful loud,” Steve murmurs. He turns to glance up at Bucky, and Bucky shrugs a little bit.

“Want to talk about this later, OK?” he murmurs back.

“Yeah,” Steve agrees. “We should definitely do that. Sorry I didn’t think to do it before we left.”

“Nothin’ to be sorry about, Stevie. I didn’t think of it either. And maybe Wanda will give us more to talk about.”

“She probably will. You gonna spend the whole time we’re there antagonizing Pietro?”

Bucky chuckles a little. “Probably.”

He can’t help it. The little speed demon is so easy to rile up. Bucky likes Wanda almost as much as Steve does, but PIetro’s a pain in the ass.

“Oh shit,” Steve mutters, shaking his head a little. “I have some charms at home I meant to bring for Wanda’s shop.”

“Put a note in your phone so you don’t forget again,” Bucky says.

“Yeah, you’re right.” But Steve doesn’t do it. He fiddles with the phone instead.

“Want I should do it for you?”

“Sure,” and Steve hands over his phone.

Bucky unlocks it quickly, and adds the reminder for Steve to take the charms to Wanda’s for a week from now. He might remember on his own. Or they might be busy fighting off whatever it is that had overtaken Steve yesterday. He also adds a couple of other reminders, since he’s got the phone. These are a different type of reminder. ‘Tell Bucky you love him’ is one. ‘Remind Bucky he should tell you how he feels about you’ is another.

Not that he needs a reminder to do that, or that Steve needs one either, but it’s nice to have it put into actual, out loud words sometimes.

They get off the subway at Wanda’s stop and head up to the street. Wanda’s shop is very close to the subway, just a short walk. How she and Pietro had ever managed to afford the building with New York real estate prices, Bucky will never know.

The shop is still open when they get there. The glow of the lights spills out into the street, welcoming and inviting. It’s one of the only shops on the block still open at this hour, other than the pizza place next door. And somehow, Wanda’s place looks far more inviting than the pizza joint.

But then, Bucky might think that because he doesn’t eat people food anymore. Maybe Steve will want a slice on their way out, though. It does smell awfully good. And he could enjoy Steve enjoying the pizza.

Wanda looks up from her spot behind the desk that serves as a checkout counter when they come in, and smiles when she sees Steve.

That faint red glow that always surrounds her seems a little bit more intense today, and Bucky wonders briefly if it’s protective, for her. As far as he can tell, the way Steve glows faintly golden all the time is just Steve, but perhaps for Wanda it’s different. He supposes he’ll have to wonder though; it seems rude to ask.

Steve and Wanda hug, and she smiles at Bucky.

“How are you?” she asks Steve, holding him at arm’s length and inspecting him. Bucky wonders if she can see Steve’s glow, wonders if she can read more in it than he can.

“I’m fine,” Steve insists. “But that’s what I wanted to talk to you about. I assume you’ve heard by now.”

She smiles again, gentle this time. “I did, but I felt it when it happened, too. You must have been frightened.”

Steve shrugs, which Bucky knows means yes.

“Let’s go upstairs,” she suggests, and Steve nods.

Bucky trails after them, through the shop and down the hall to the door that opens on the staircase up to the apartment she and Pietro share.

Pietro appears at the top of the stairs as they’re ascending, and hisses at Bucky. Bucky rolls his eyes. He’s pretty sure Wanda does, too.

“Go watch the shop a bit, please,” is all she says, though.

Pietro sighs theatrically and clomps down the stairs, making sure to bump into Bucky on his way by.

Bucky rolls his eyes again.

“What’s with him?” Steve asks, looking between Wanda and Bucky.

Bucky laughs. “He thinks he’s antagonizing me, Steve. Don’t worry about it.”

“He doesn’t much care for vampires,” Wanda adds, delicately. She leads them to the living room, and Steve and Bucky sit down on the couch. Wanda sits in the chair that Bucky thinks of as hers, even though he’s only been in her apartment a couple of times and she’s never said anything to that effect.

‘He thinks we’re parasites,’ he says to Steve, telepathically.

Steve looks at him sharply, immediately ready to defend Bucky, and Bucky shrugs and puts his arm around his shoulders, placating or at least attempting to keep from Steve going off to throw hands and probably magic at Pietro.

Wanda looks between them, as though she knows they’re communicating and is curious as to what they’re talking about. She doesn’t seem offended, even though Bucky knows he’s being rude.

“It’s fine,” he says aloud. “No offense taken.”

Wanda gives him a level look.

“I find him amusing more than anything else.”

Wanda smiles, and turns her attention back to Steve. “Tell me what happened?”

Steve takes and deep breath and opens his mouth to speak and--closes it again. “I don’t know, exactly. One minute I was talking to Bruce, and then it was like he’d been struck by lightning, and the lightning came from me. Or was me? And it was like calling my magic, but I couldn't stop it or change it or get it to do anything.”

“Hmm,” Wanda says. “Did you notice anything different before it happened? How did you feel yesterday?”

Steve shrugs. “I felt fine. I was real tired afterward, though.”

“That makes sense, you channeled a great deal of magic in a short period of time.”

“But why?!”

“I don’t know, Steve,” Wanda says. “I will do some reading and see what I can find, if you’d like?”

“I would appreciate it,” Steve says. “I’m planning to do the same.”

“Good, I’m sure between us we will figure it out. Are you going to talk to anyone else?”

“I’ll talk more to Sam, of course. I might call Pepper but I can’t imagine she has time for this right now.”

Wanda nods. “The more people looking for answers the better, though.”

“True,” Steve agrees.

They turn to other matters, and Bucky tunes out for a bit, just enjoying the calm feeling of being in Wanda’s place. He’d noticed it before, but it’s a very soothing place to be. He thinks that Wanda makes it that way, somehow.

Eventually they take their leave. Wanda hugs both of them, and she tells them to take care of each other, before leading them back downstairs and to the door.

“Bye, Pietro,” Bucky makes sure he calls from the door, waving a little at him.

Pietro growls, and Steve giggles all the way to the subway.

--

Steve gets a text while they’re waiting on the platform for the next train.

“Oh, Sam says that Natasha is at the house,” he says to Bucky.

Bucky makes an affirmative noise in response.

“Says she’s got a guy with her. Someone new.”

Bucky takes a moment to process that. “Like, another dragon?”

“He doesn’t say. I guess we’ll find out when we get home. Do you want to stop in at Sam’s with me?”

“Sure.” Bucky rather likes Natasha. She’s a hard one to read, and her power is off the charts crazy huge, but he likes her. He feels like they’re somehow kindred spirits, although he has no idea what her past is like. He has a feeling though, that it’s as blood-tinged as his own, as Steve, as all of the wolves.

Bucky is a little bit apprehensive of going into Sam’s when he knows there’s someone he doesn’t know there. It’s born of years and years of pain, and he knows it’s probably not the best reaction to meeting new people, but he hasn’t quite figured out a way around it.

What he’s really not expecting is to walk through Sam’s front door and smell. Human?

Like. Regular human? That can’t be right, can it?

Sam just gives them both a wide-eyed look and leads them through the house to the kitchen, where Natasha is chatting with Bruce and the new guy is sitting at the table with a cup of coffee.

He looks completely innocuous and normal.

It must be a trap.

He bounces to his feet when they come into the room and comes over to Steve and Bucky and Sam.

“Hey, man,” Sam says. “These are my friends Steve and Bucky. Steve, Bucky, this is Clint.”

“Hey, how’s it going?” Clint asks, sticking out his hand. He pulls it back quickly though, with a little frown. “Sorry, I’m still learning the ropes.” He gives a shrug, self deprecating.

“It’s nice to meet you, Clint,” Steve says.

Bucky adds a nod.

Clint smiles a little. “You too. If I’m honest,” he offers, “I don’t think Natasha was planning on uh, letting me meet her people just yet?”

Steve looks at him, quizzical, and then glances over at Natasha. She’s still speaking to Bruce, but she looks over at them, one of those little enigmatic smiles she’s so good at on her face.

“Meet people?” Steve asks.

Clint shrugs again. “Well uh. I don’t know all the etiquette yet? With like. Not-humans. Is that the right term?”

It’s Steve’s turn to shrug. “I’m a witch. Bucky’s a vampire. I suppose not-human works.”

“Cool.”

Steve throws an alarmed glance at Bucky, because he’s awkward around people he doesn’t know pretty well, and he doesn’t know what to say. Bucky isn’t much better off, but he tries.

“So, how did you meet Natasha?”

“She found me a in a dumpster,” Clint replies.

After a moment, he takes pity on them and grins. “Nah, it’s fine, it’s a long story, I sorta end up in dumpsters a lot.”

Steve and Bucky both blink at him, and beside them Sam is all but face-palming. Clint seems completely unphased by the awkwardness, though. Bucky’s not sure if he’s oblivious or just perverse.

“Anyway,” he says. “Natasha is great. I think she thinks of me as a pet.” He shrugs, unconcerned.

“Not a pet,” Natasha says from across the room. Steve startles a little, and the only reason Bucky doesn't do the same is because he’s a vampire. Clint glances over his shoulder at her, and Bucky notices the hearing aid over his ear.

Clint grins at her and shrugs again, turning back to Steve and Bucky. “She feeds me and takes care of me and fishes me out of dumpsters; I’m a little bit her pet.”

He seems entirely copacetic with such a situation.

“Do you sign?” Bucky asks, because that’s none of his business and he doesn’t particularly want Clint to elaborate any further.

“What? Oh--yeah, do you?”

Bucky nods, and Steve pipes up, “I do, too.”

“That’s awesome,” Clint says. “Don’t meet a ton of hearing people who sign.”

Steve shrugs, and the darkness that passes across his eyes is probably only noticeable by Bucky, but he instinctively steps closer to Steve and puts his arm around his shoulders.

“I was uh, not. Um. Able to speak, for a while. So I learned to sign.”

Bucky knows that “able” is not even a little bit the correct word for it, but Clint doesn’t need to know that. It’s none of his business, for one thing.

Steve looks up at Bucky with a sickly little smile, glad of the comfort Bucky’s offering. Bucky presses a quick kiss to his temple.

“My work is with a team, and we need to be able to communicate without any noise, so we all learned to sign, at least enough for our work. Some of us are better than others. My team leader is the best of all of us; you should meet her sometime.”

“Cool, yeah,” Clint says.

Natasha chooses that moment to bring Bruce over to their little group. She slots herself in at Clint’s side and puts her arm around his waist. He kisses her cheek, and she preens a little bit. Bucky thinks that maybe Natasha has decided to hoard Clint. He doesn’t seem at all averse to it, though.

To each their own, he supposes. But then, it’s not like he isn’t in some ways hoarding Steve for himself.

Bucky gives a mental shrug and tunes back in to the conversation. Steve is on steadier ground with Natasha and Bruce and Sam now in the mix, and Bucky listens to the ebb and flow of it around him, until things start to lull a bit, and Bruce excuses himself to wander off.

Bruce doesn’t people very well for very long. It’s an ogre thing, Bucky figures, but also he relates.

Steve is the next to make excuses, and Bucky is entirely grateful for it. He can tell that Steve is flagging, though it’s still very early in the night. Sam and Clint are looking a little drawn around the edges too, tired.

They all take their leave of each other and head out, leaving Sam to his space.

On the sidewalk outside, Steve makes tentative plans with Natasha, who is looking between him and Bucky like she knows something—which she usually does—and Natasha heads off with Clint.

Bucky wishes he could literally sweep Steve off his feet to take him down to their place, but he doesn’t. He does sling his arm around Steve’s shoulder as they head downstairs.

“I know what you’re thinking, Buck.”

“What’s that?”

“You want to bundle me up and hide me from the world for a while.”

Bucky shrugs. “That’s fairly accurate, yes.”

Steve tries to scowl, but it doesn’t work very well. “I appreciate your restraint.”

“Anything for you, sweetheart.”

It happens again, a few days later.

It’s worse this time. Steve isn’t as panicked, because he knows what’s going on this time, and he’s at home and Bucky can scoop him up and bundle him into the workroom for containment quite quickly, but it feels like it goes on forever.

Maybe it does go one forever. Bucky holds him, feeling the lightning crackle around them, watching it discharge into the floor, feeling Steve shake against him, and the tears that soak into his shirt, and he is afraid.

Eventually, it subsides. Steve takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly, shifts against Bucky. He doesn't try to move or get Bucky to let go of him, though.

“You’re OK,” Bucky murmurs, stroking his hand down Steve’s back.

Steve chuckles, bitter. “I’m not, Buck.”

“I know,” Bucky agrees. “We’ll figure it out though.”

 

“Will we?” Steve sighs again, and leans back.

“Yes,” Bucky says. He puts as much conviction as he has behind that word.

Steve makes a face, but he doesn’t say anything else. Instead, he snuggles in close again, and lets himself be held by Bucky for a little bit longer.

“Should we leave the city?” he asks later on, after Bucky has ensconced him in their bed and plied him with kisses and water and snacks. He’s drifting ever closer to sleep, which is good because Bucky can feel his exhaustion.

“I dunno, maybe.”

“Where would we go?”

“Do you want the obvious answer, or?”

Steve scowls, and a moment later he’s asleep.

Bucky stays up the rest of the night, thinking. Worrying.

--

Bucky goes to sleep worrying about Steve still. He doesn’t know what to do. They’re both helpless. He hates it.

Steve is already up when Bucky wakes the next evening, sitting in bed next to him with his mom’s grimoire and his laptop in front of him, a cup of coffee in his hands. He’s got the glasses he’s started wearing on. Bucky doesn’t know what they’re for, but they look amazing on Steve.

“How you feelin?” he asks, voice coming out raspy with sleep.

Steve shrugs. “I can’t find anything on this anywhere, Buck.”

“We’ll figure it out, Stevie.”

Steve grunts. “The only stuff my mother wrote basically boils down to ‘you got this, kiddo’. Not super helpful. I can’t find anything on the internet except stuff about the Norse god of thunder. Also. Not. Helpful.”

Bucky sits up and puts his arms around Steve. “C’mon, let’s get out for a bit. Go for a walk or something.”

Steve pulls back a little bit. “What if it happens again?”

Bucky shrugs. “People will get a light show that they’ll write off as weird and unexplained, and I’ll pick you up and haul ass home with you. I don’t want you to feel like you can’t leave the house, Steve. That’s not healthy.”

Steve’s expression is dark. “I probably shouldn’t leave the house.”

“Don’t think like that, Steve. C’mon, up and at ‘em.”

Steve gets up and gets dressed, and Bucky follows suit. They go for a walk, through the neighborhood and a couple of the nearby parks. Neither of them has any sort of destination in mind, so they just meander. Mostly, they’re quiet, but they do chat off and on. Gradually, Steve’s mood seems to lift, as they walk.

Bucky is relieved.

They stop for food for Steve, and by the time they get back home, he seems to be in better spirits.

“I’m gonna try not to think about it anymore tonight,” he says. “Let’s cuddle in bed.”

“Don’t have to ask me twice,” Bucky says.

So they do exactly that. And Bucky is aware that it’s at least partly because Steve is still exhausted from all the power expenditure, and if it happens again soon it’s going to wipe him out even worse than this time.

But he’ll take a cue from Steve for tonight, and he’ll not worry about it. Much.

--

“We can go out to the house if you want,” Bucky says the next night, while Steve is eating his breakfast. “But only if you want to.”

Steve scowls at him.

Bucky shrugs. “You have more books out there, right? If you wanted to go down for a weekend and look at some of those, or gather stuff to bring back. It’s up to you, though. Whatever you decide.”

Steve scowls for a few minutes more, and then sighs. “I know that you actually mean that, but the way you say it makes it sound like you really think we should go out there.”

“I do actually mean it; it’s up to you.”

“I’ll think about it.”

“OK.”

“OK.”

Bucky leaves Steve to finish his breakfast and goes to shower and dress. He hears the phone ringing--Steve’s, he’s pretty sure--while he’s in the bathroom, but he tunes it out in lieu of enjoying the hot water.

When he goes into their room after his shower, Steve is sitting on the bed with a faraway look in his eyes.

“Was someone on the phone?”

Steve nods, after a moment. Bucky doesn’t think it’s hesitation so much as it’s the time it takes for his words to filter through Steve’s consciousness.

“It was Pepper,” he says.

“OK,” Bucky says, rifling through the dresser for something clean. It’s almost time to take all their clothes to the laundromat for cleaning. If there’s one thing he likes about a) living in a city in b) the 21st century, it’s that he can pay someone else to do his laundry for him.

It’s pretty great. The wolves tease him about it, call him a diva, but he genuinely does not care. It’s a luxury he is more than happy to have.

“She asked me to come over,” Steve adds.

“Tonight?”

He nods. “Yeah.”

“Are you going?”

“Will you go with me?”

Bucky groans a litte. “But Tony’ll end up groping me the whole time.”

“Not all of you, Buck. Just your arm.”

“Ugh, I don’t like it.”

“It would probably be a good thing. It’s his tech, he can tune it up for you or something.”

“I hate you.” Bucky flops back on the bed.

“You do not,” Steve replies, sanguine. “I’m going to take a shower. Pepper’s sending a car.”

“She’s sending a car?!”

“Yeah, is that a problem?”

Bucky shrugs. “No. Just unexpected.”

It’s Steve’s turn to shrug. “I think she’s worried.”

She’s not the only one, pal, Bucky thinks.

“I heard that,” Steve intones.

“Go shower, punk.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah.” But Steve gets up and heads down the hall to the bathroom.

The car shows up at precisely the time Steve indicated it would, a nondescript black town car driven by someone who will remain shrouded in mystery because they didn’t get out of the car or lower the partition between the back seat and the front.

Bucky doesn’t really care. It’s just another indication of how rich the Master of the City and his triad really were. Complete discretion at all times.

The traffic isn’t too bad at this time of night, almost all of the humans out of sight or in bed, even if New York is the city that never sleeps.

Well, in some ways that’s true.

The Tower remains a spectacle that Bucky doesn’t quite get. But then, Tony is a master vampire, Master of New York, and ostentatiousness seems to go with the territory. Zola had been a master vampire, for all that he’d never had a city. He’d certainly been onstentatious--and fucking weird. Pierce had been one too, even if he never bothered going after a city, too busy aiming for the entire world instead.

Bucky has no idea how Tony came to be the Master of New York. He doesn't want to know. He does know that Rhodey and Pepper keep him probably more human than another other vampire of his age or calibre or whatever that Bucky has ever met.

Of course, Tony seems more or less harmless, and all the other master vampires Bucky had ever met had been evil motherfuckers.

“You’re thinking awful hard,” Steve murmurs in his ear.

“And too much, I’m sure,” Bucky replies.

“We’ll be there soon. Are you going to play nice?”

“I guess. I could take Tony if I had to.”

Steve shrugs, and Bucky feels it more than sees it. “Perhaps, but I don’t know if we could take all three of them without dying. So let’s not try it, OK? Just let him fiddle with your arm.”

“I don’t want him to fiddle with my arm.”

“I know, but think of it as good PR.”

“You’re the worst.”

“You love me.”

Bucky rolls his eyes, and presses a kiss to Steve’s forehead.

--

The usual crowd does not seem to be in attendance tonight, and Bucky breathes a sigh of relief when the elevator lets them off onto the floor they’d been told to go to, and the only person he sees immediately is Pepper.

She comes over to them and hugs Steve. After that, she hugs Bucky, which he wasn’t expecting. He pats her gently on the back; she gives off an air of fragility that he isn’t quite fooled by, both because he’s met her more than once and because he knows that she and Rhodey run the city and she runs Tony’s company on top of all that.

That and Steve has explained how powerful she is. He’d sounded awed when he’d talked about it. Bucky knows that Steve admires strong women.

“Come sit,” she instructs, and leads them over to the living area to sit on the sofa. She offers Steve something to drink, and he asks for water.

She turns to Bucky. “I could certainly get some blood for you, if you’d like?”

Bucky blinks at her for a moment, and shakes his head. “No thanks, I’m good.”

She nods, and a few moments later Rhodey comes into the room with a drinks tray in his hands. He sets it down on the coffee table and sits down next to Pepper.

They make a striking couple, and Bucky wonders--

“Steven!”

Next to him, Steve sighs. Both Pepper and Rhodey are smiling, and Bucky knows that neither of them is doing a good job of hiding their reactions to Tony’s entrance.

“He likes to make an entrance,” Rhodey intones.

Steve snorts, and Pepper gives Rhodes a gentle swat. He grins.

Bucky doesn’t quite know how it happens, but he’s pulled away from the group to one of Tony’s workshops within minutes.

“Leave the magic folk to talk magic,” Tony says as he’s pushing Bucky towards a stool set in front of a workbench. It’s a lot like Steve’s, except covered in gadgets and tools instead of books and candles.

Bucky sighs, but he sits down.

“Aren’t you supposed to be the one in charge here?” he asks.

Tony snorts and picks up a little screwdriver. “Fuck no. Not at home. Bucko, I don’t even do the actual running of the city, to let you in on a little secret.”

Bucky smiles a little. “That’s not much of a secret, Tony.”

“Maybe not to you, but that’s because my better halves really like Steve.”

It doesn’t hurt when Tony starts prying up the plates to get at the guts of the arm, but Bucky doesn't like to see it, so he looks away.

“You’re a master vampire,” he points out, after a bit.

He feels more than sees Tony shrug. “I’m just here to look pretty and give them the political legitimacy they need to get shit done. And I am entirely happy with that. Besides--” and he taps on a wire in Bucky’s arm that sends a little zing into his brain and down his spine-- “they do a good job of keeping all the gazillions of different types of creatures in a city like New York from all out war.”

“There is that,” Bucky agrees.

“What about you?” Tony asks. “You could be one, especially with the boy wonder at your side.”

Bucky shakes his head. “No, thanks. And I certainly don’t want a city.”

Tony nods. “You’re probably better off, tbh.”

--

When Tony has finished fiddling with his arm--and he really has no idea what he’d done, other than comment on how the wires shouldn’t be fried like they are so maybe he’d replaced them?--Steve is still visiting with Pepper and Rhodey, but now he has a small pile of books on the table in front of him.

He stands up when he sees Bucky, and Bucky feels at him: how he’s bone tired now, ready to be home.

Pepper looks between them and nods. She pats Rhodey’s knee, and he looks between them as well. “I’ll have a car waiting for you downstairs.”

He kisses Pepper briefly, stands up and heads out of the room, stopping to kiss Tony on his way by.

Bucky picks up the books on the table and tucks them under his arm. “Ready to head out, Steve? You got what you needed?”

Steve stands up, tucking himself in against Bucky’s side, sliding his arm around Bucky’s middle, and smiles up at him, one of those gentle, soft smiles of his that he rarely lets anyone other than Bucky see.

“Yeah,” he says, and Bucky is sure he can feel his exhaustion. “Let’s head home.”

--

Steve takes the books off of him in the elevator, tucking them under his own arm, and leans against him. Bucky slings his arm around Steve’s shoulders, and presses a kiss to his temple.

“Good visit?” he murmurs.

Steve shrugs. “It’s always nice to see Pepper and Rhodey.”

“And Tony?”

Steve snorts a little. “You saw more of him than I did. How’s your arm?”

“It’s fine. He fiddled with it. I think he replaced some wires. I always space out when he does that.”

“I know you don’t like it.”

“I do not.”

“It’s good to let him have his tinkering though.”

“I guess.”

“He is the master of the city.”

They’re in the car now, and Bucky snorts. “Pepper and Rhodey are the master of the city. Tony’s just a figurehead, and he’d tell you that himself.”

“Well. Yeah, you’re right.”

“Anything else you wanna do tonight, while we have this car?”

“Pretty sure the car’s only meant to take us home again.”

Bucky shrugs. “I’m sure the driver would oblige us.”

“Well anyway, no, not really. I’d like to get started reading the books Pepper lent me. And I’m hungry. Can we get sushi tonight?”

“Sure thing, sweetheart.”

When they’re back at home, Bucky makes the call to Steve’s favorite sushi place, and orders him several rolls. He always says that he won’t be able to eat more than two or maybe three, and then he always polishes off at least five rolls. Every time, without fail.

Bucky orders Steve’s favorites, pretty much his usual order--the proprietors of all of the local places they order from most recognize both Steve’s and Bucky’s voices--and arranges to have it delivered.

Usually he would go pick it up himself, and technically the sushi place doesn’t deliver, but something tells him that tonight is not the best night to leave Steve on his own. Some instinct is telling him to stay close. And they’re willing to make the odd exception for Steve; he’d done wards for them when they were having some issues with a ghost.

Steve wouldn’t let them pay him, so they deliver his order when they ask, and they always throw in an order of edamame or give them a discount.

He’s in the living room when Bucky comes in, with the books he’d brought home sitting next to him on the sofa, already leafing through one of them.

“Are you expecting it to talk to you?” Bucky asks as he sits next to Steve.

Steve smiles. “No, but I’m always hopeful. Some do, you know.”

“What? Speak? I would imagine.”

Steve looks at him, and his expression goes serious, a little wistful. “Sometimes my mom’s grimoire whispers to me.”

Bucky waits for him to go on, but he doesn’t. “What does it say?”

Steve shrugs. “I can never quite make it out. It’s soothing, though.” He turns his attention back to the books, but he scoots a little closer to Bucky, too.

--

The food arrives, and Bucky tips the waiter that they’d sent over generously. It’s the same guy they always send; Bucky’s pretty sure he’s the owner’s son.

He takes the food to Steve, still camped out on the sofa, and starts setting things out for him. He takes the book out of Steve’s hand and replaces it with chopsticks, and he’d feel bad about how condescending that action probably is if it weren’t for the fact that Steve had a book in each hand and was reading the one Bucky didn’t take.

When he realizes that he’s holding chopsticks, he makes a pleased noise and starts eating.

Bucky sits back and enjoys it. He can’t eat people food anymore, but he can enjoy how much pleasure Steve gets out of good food.

He sticks close for the rest of the night, bringing water for Steve and one of his notebooks when he asks, because Steve doesn’t often ask him for things. He reads the book that Steve hasn’t picked up yet, a treatise on storms that makes very little sense to Bucky as not a magic-user, but he finds it interesting nonetheless. He’s not sure how it would help Steve, though.

Steve isn’t a storm. He’s a witch whose power happens to be manifesting itself as lightning lately.

Well, it always had, it just had never been with the force of a hurricane before.

At the end of the night, when Steve is all but stumbling down the hall to their room, quite possibly cross-eyed sleepy, he doesn’t seem to be any closer to an answer than he was when they’d started.

But he is feeling a bit more confident about it, and that is a relief to Bucky. He follows behind Steve into their room, and strips out of his clothes. They both crawl into bed, turning to each other the way they always do.

Bucky is asleep as the sun rises, and Steve is too.

--

The third and fourth episodes happen one right after the other, with only a few hours respite between them.

After the fourth, Steve sleeps for almost twenty four hours.

When he wakes up, he looks like death warmed over.

He scowls up and Bucky, prickly and spiky, and Bucky scowls back before he can remind himself not to, because Steve is going through some shit and everything is very confused in his head right now and he just slept for a whole day but still kinda looks like death warmed over. That just makes Steve scowl even harder, looking thunderous and mutinous.

“Stop it,” he orders.

Bucky takes a step back. “Stop what.”

“Feeling at me so hard. You’re making my head hurt.”

“I’m sorry I have emotions, Steve.”

“Oh fuck off you know that’s not what I meant.”

“Sure sounds like it, princess grumpy pants.”

Steve gapes at him for a moment, and then laughs. He falls over in bed laughing, and Bucky sits down next to him, giggling a little.

He knows that Steve had lashed out because he’s still exhausted and he’s worried and he’d just woken up. He’s frustrated. They’re both frustrated. They’re no closer to a solution or even to a reason why this keeps happening.

Bucky doesn’t know what to do, and he hates it. He hates it almost as much as Steve does.

Eventually, Steve stops giggling. He rolls onto his back and looks up at Bucky. “I’m so tired, Buck.”

“I know, sweetheart.”

“I’m scared,” he admits, his voice small.

Bucky knows that, too. But he doesn’t say so. Instead he lays down next to Steve and gathers him close, pressing a kiss to his temple and holding him as tight as he dares.

“Maybe we should go out to the house,” he says after a while.

Steve whines, and squeezes him tighter. Bucky knows that means he doesn’t want to, but he doesn’t see what other options they have right now.

Still, it cannot be his decision. He won’t force Steve to go out there. Steve has too many memories, too much trauma based in that place.

“We could go somewhere else?” He suggests. “I’m sure we can find someplace secluded enough to give you a break.”

Steve sighs. “Secluded enough and light-proof?”

“Probably.”

Steve sighs again, heavier this time. “Secluded and light proof and warded?”

“Steve, I can’t decide for you. We can stay here if you’d prefer.”

“I don’t think that’s a great idea. Do you?”

“Well--” he hesitates too long, and he knows that Steve can feel that he doesn’t think that’s a great idea. “No,” he finally finishes.

“Yeah,” Steve agrees.

“But I don’t want you to be miserable because we’re there, either.”

Steve makes a frustrated noise. He twists out of Bucky’s arms and stands, pacing next to the bed. Bucky watches.

“You don’t have to decide right now,” he points out.

“They’re happening more often, Buck.”

“You haven’t set the place on fire yet.”

Steve glares at him. “Don’t joke about that. I do that.”

“You did that. Because you were stuck with a psychopath whose name we shall not utter in this house.”

Steve smiles, just a little.

It’s true, though. Pierce’s homes had a tendency to catch on fire. Steve never did it on purpose, exactly. But it wasn’t ever entirely accidental either.

Steve keeps pacing, fisting his hands in his hair, muttering to himself occasionally.

Bucky sits back, leaving him to it. He’ll work his way through it in his own time, and when he’s done he’ll tell Bucky what he’s decided.

Eventually, he comes to a stop, facing Bucky at the side of the bed. “Look. I don’t want to go out there. I don’t like the house, if I never see it again it would be too soon.”

“But?”

Steve sits down on the bed, somehow explosively, and crosses his arms. “But it’s safe. I feel safe there, in the cabin. I hate it, but I do.”

Bucky waits a moment, and then adds, “And?”

“And you’ll be with me. There’s more books out there; I don’t know that I’ll find any more info out there than I’ve found here, but I should look. And I won’t hurt anyone out there, if--”

“Steve--”

“It might happen, Buck. I might go nuclear. I don’t want to, but it might happen.”

Bucky doesn’t want to consider the possibility, but it’s clear that Steve has. That he’s worried that it might happen, worried enough he’s willing to go to a place that makes him miserable.

“OK,” he agrees. “When do you want to leave?”

Steve shrugs. “Give me a day or two. I need to call Natasha, we’re supposed to get together.”

“Do you think she could do something to help?”

“I dunno. Maybe.”

“Are you going to ask?”

Steve scowls, because Bucky knows him very well. “Yes, I’ll ask.”

“OK. You hungry?”

“Starving.”

“C’mon, I’ll make you some breakfast.”

Bucky gets to his feet and puts his arm around Steve, walking with him to the kitchen. He puts together a big breakfast for Steve, sure that he must be starving after so long asleep. He knows he would be.

“So,” he says while he’s stirring the eggs, keeping an eye on the bacon, considering making a batch of pancakes too. “You noticed it’s getting stronger, right?”

Steve doesn’t say anything for a minute. “I thought we weren’t talking about it.”

“Why’d you think that?”

He can feel Steve’s shrug. “Cuz we haven’t really talked about it, except that it’s happening. It’s been creeping up for weeks now.”

Bucky turns around, and Steve shrugs again. “Well, we haven’t.”

“I should’ve brought it up again sooner, Steve. I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be. I knew it was happening and didn’t bring it up again either.”

“What do you think it means?”

“That the effects of the bond seem to be overlapping? I guess it means it’s stronger.”

“Well, that’s a good thing, right?”

Steve smirks. “I dunno how I feel about hearing your bloodlust, Buck, but otherwise, yeah.”

“Guess all that fooling around and biting each other worked, huh?”

Steve blushes to the roots of his hair, and Bucky has the sudden urge to drag him back to bed for some of that fooling around and maybe biting.

Steve blushes some more. “Let me eat first, Buck. You don’t want me passing out right when things get started.”

“True.” Bucky turns back to the stove, determined. The pancakes can wait til later.

He sits and watches Steve devour his breakfast, making happy food noises the whole time. When it’s clear that Steve is finished, Bucky clears his place for him and picks him up, draping him over his shoulder and heading for their room.

Steve squawks, because he always does so when Bucky manhandles him like this, but Bucky can feel how much he likes it. The protest is part of the fun.

He thinks ‘hey baby, lets fuck,’ at Steve with the most exaggerated leer he can mentally manage, and Steve’s squawking turns into laughter.

Later, after, Steve is breathless and giggly and momentarily viciously joyful and worry free. Sprawled out beside him, Bucky is covered in come and bite marks he wishes would last forever. He loves feeling marked by Steve, posessed by him.

He feels safe, and loved, unlike any other time in his life he’s felt possessed.

Bucky presses a finger into one of the marks, where a bruise is already blooming, where it will fade away in a few hours, along with the rest of them. He sighs.

Steve watches him through half-lidded eyes, breath slowing down but still contentedly post-coital.

Bucky takes a deep breath, filling his lungs with the scent of Steve post-sex, potent and intoxicating. His fangs are out, he can’t help it. He always wants to bite Steve after sex. And before sex. And during sex.

That’s a no go, but it doesn’t stop him from wanting it.

He’s just happy that Steve trusts that he won’t give in to the want.

Steve smiles at him, soft and impossibly fond. “You wanna bite me right now, don’t you?”

Bucky bares his teeth, his fangs. That’s answer enough. He shrugs.

“Give me a few more minutes, Buck?”

“You can have all the time in the world, Stevie.”

“Thanks,” Steve says, soft. He shifts onto his back, just breathing.

Bucky lays next to him, breathing him in, thinking about somehow imprinting the scent of Steve on his soul. It’s probably not possible, but at least he can stick his nose in Steve’s neck almost any time he wants to. That’s almost enough.

After a while, he turns on his side, propping his head on his hand and looking at Steve, simply looking at him, drinking him in, feeling only tenderness.

Steve laces his fingers together over his stomach, gloriously naked, and lets his head fall to the side so he can look at Bucky. “Hey,” he says.

“Hi,” Bucky replies.

“You wanna clean up a bit?”

Bucky shakes his head, frowns a little. There is definitely come drying on his stomach and… other places, but he doesn’t want to let that go, not quite yet. He likes the feeling of being marked by Steve too much. And the bruises and bite marks are already starting to fade, more’s the pity.

Steve smiles at him, like he understands. Bucky supposes he probably does; he can feel the way Bucky feels. He feels the same way about Bucky, in slightly different ways because he likes different things than Bucky.

They stay like that for a while, just taking each other in, quiet in their haven, their bedroom. Steve is the one to get up, going into the bathroom for a few minutes, coming back with a wet washcloth and a dry towel. He cleans Bucky off, slow and thorough about it, and it feels like an act of worship lying there under his ministrations. When he’s finished, he tosses the washcloth and towel towards the bathroom and stretches out next to Bucky again.

“OK,” he says. “I’m ready.”

Bucky has to restrain himself from just diving in. Steve is much, much better about being bitten than he used to be, but sudden movements from Bucky are not a good thing.

He turns towards Steve slowly, and presses a brief, chaste kiss to his lips. “Where’s good, sweetheart?”

Steve shrugs, and he cups Bucky’s cheek in his hands, like Bucky is something precious and cherished. He brushes his thumb over Bucky’s lips and says, “Let me see.”

Bucky opens up so Steve can see his fangs. Steve doesn’t touch, but he does look, before he drops his hand.

“Maybe an arm?”

“OK,” Bucky agrees. “Which one?”

“Do my left, I think.”

“Wrist, elbow, or upper arm?”

“Where do you think is best?”

“Can I try your upper arm? Here--” he pushes Steve’s arm out to the side and traces along its underside, where he knows the artery runs.

Steve nods. “OK. Yes, you can bite me there.”

Bucky kisses him again--still chaste, because biting and sex have to be different things for Steve. This is just love, and gratitude.

Biting Steve is unlike biting anyone else Bucky has ever bitten in his long not-life as a vampire. He imagines it must have something to do with their bond, and the way they are entirely in each others’ heads, but Steve’s blood is the sweetest ambrosia he can imagine.

He doesn’t let himself take much, just a few sips before he licks at the twin bite wounds to help them close; it wouldn’t do for Steve to bleed out on him.

Possibly the best part, though, is that Steve’s thoughts and emotions stay calm while Bucky’s teeth are in him. He doesn’t panic, he just feels glad that Bucky is getting what he needs.

He’d worked so hard on that. They both had. He’s come so far, and Bucky is so proud of him.

“I’m really proud of you, Steve.”

Steve turns his head to look down at him, where Bucky is stretched along his side. Steve’s arm is still stretched across the bed, and the bite marks will fade in a few days, won’t even scar. Bucky thinks that’s another benefit of the bond: Steve heals almost as fast as he does, and he doesn’t seem to scar either, at least not so far.

Hopefully he won’t ever get any wounds more serious than the odd bite mark from Bucky to find out if those would scar.

“For what?”

“For everything. You’ve come a long way. You are OK with me biting you and you don’t even freak out anymore.”

“I trust you, Buck.”

“I know, but you’ve put a lot into this, and I’m proud of you.”

Steve blushes a bit. “Thanks, Buck.” He cups Bucky’s cheek again, and Bucky turns into the contact.

“C’mere,” Steve adds after a moment, and Bucky scoots up the bed so he can snuggle into Steve.

They’re both still naked, but it’s no longer sexual. Now it’s comfort, it’s closeness. Intimacy. They wriggle around until they can get the sheet and the electric blanket over them, and Steve turns the blanket on, and they hold each other close.

“Call your power,” Bucky says after a while.

“What?”

“You should try it, Steve. Make yourself spark.”

“I’m not sure that’s a good idea, Buck.”

“You can do it, sweetheart. It’s your power.”

Steve is quiet for a while, but eventually he says, “OK,” in a small voice.

Bucky keeps holding on to him, and waits.

It builds slowly, filling the air around them with static electricity. He feels it like warmth from Steve, like he’s Bucky’s own personal furnace. It builds and builds, until the air--and Steve--are crackling with it, the lamps on the nightstands flickering, and then it fades away again as Steve lets it go and it dissipates.

He can feel Steve’s surprise.

“See, you have control of it, Steve. It’s getting away from you sometimes right now, but it’s yours, and you control it.”

“Do I?”

“Yes, Steve. Ultimately, yes.”

“Yeah,” he agrees, sounding a little wondering, a little unsure of himself still.

“So what are you thinking is making this happen, these power surges?”

Steve gives him a look. “Is that what we’re calling these?”

Bucky shrugs. “Got a better thing to call it?”

He thinks for a few minutes, and shrugs. “No, I guess not.”

“Yeah,” Bucky agrees.

“And I don’t know,” Steve adds. “I don’t know what’s causing this. Nothing I’ve read has given me any ideas, either. Pepper doesn’t have any ideas, Wanda doesn’t have any ideas. I’m frustrated as fuck, Bucky. I can’t figure it out.”

Bucky gives him a little squeeze, and Steve sort of wriggles a bit more into Bucky’s space. “We will get this sorted out, Steve. I know it.”

“How, Buck? How do you know that?”

“I don’t know really. I just do.”

“I wish I could believe that, Buck, but I don’t have a lot of confidence right now.”

Bucky squeezes him again, tight enough that Steve makes a little ‘oof’ noise. “I know you don’t, sweetheart. I have enough for both of us, though. So leave the confidence to me and just do what you need to do.”

Steve lifts his head and smiles at him. “Thank you, Buck. I’ll try.”

“I got you, Stevie.” Bucky kisses him. “Anything else going on today, or we just hanging out here?”

“Oh, Natasha is coming over in a bit.”

“Ugh, so you’re telling me I have to put clothes on?”

“I mean, you don’t have to, but I might object to you being all naked around company.”

Bucky groans.

“Would you want me to be naked with Natasha around?”

Bucky very nearly hisses, but he manages to stop himself. “I see your point.”

Steve laughs. “So clothes it is.”

“Clothes it is,” Bucky agrees.

--

Natasha texts Steve a little while later, informing him in the form of a question that Clint would be coming with her.

Bucky’s not entirely sure how he feels about it, but he doesn’t really want to try to tell Natasha no. He may joke about being crispy and good with ketchup, but he doesn’t actually want to test that theory out.

And Clint seems pretty cool. For a human. A completely vanilla human.

Bucky doesn’t know many of those.

The not wanting Clint in the house has less to do with Clint being human and more to do with Bucky’s vampire instincts and slightly territorial nature. And being more protective of Steve than usual.

But even if things go wonky, Natasha will be able to take care of Clint, keep him from harm. And Bucky will watch out for Steve. It will be fine.

It’ll be fine.

--

They’re both dressed, thankfully, by the time Natasha is at their door. She has Clint in tow, and he looks around curiously while Natasha and Steve are hugging hello.

It seems a little odd to Bucky, that a dragon gives hugs, but who is he to cast aspersions? He’s a vampire that lives in a basement apartment in Brooklyn.

Natasha and Bucky exchange terse nods hello, but Clint gives first Steve and then Bucky big hugs, while Natasha looks on with an amused smirk.

“Thanks for letting me tag along to your house,” he says to Bucky when he lets go.

Bucky is still a little stunned that Clint had hugged him. It was a nice hug. He’s warm.

“Yeah, no problem,” Bucky says. “Would you like something to drink?”

“Uh, coffee if you’ve got it? Thanks, man.”

“Of course. Natasha, would you like anything to drink?” She and Steve are deep in conversation by the door still, neither of them has moved.

“No, thank you,” she replies.

Bucky nods. He looks to Clint again. “Have a seat, I’ll be back with coffee. How do you take it?”

“Black is fine.” Clint sits down.

When Buck comes back with a bug of coffee for the human, Clint is alone in the living room, sitting on the couch. He is looking around with frank curiosity on his face.

Bucky hands him the mug and sits down in one of their armchairs.

“I didn’t know what to expect, coming over to your house,” Clint admits.

Bucky shrugs. “What did you expect?”

 

“I dunno.” He shrugs. “You hear a lot of shit about vampires and witches, growing up.”

“Do you?”

Clint gives him a brief look that suggests that he’s perhaps not as bumbling as he comes across. It’s probably a good defense, especially if he’s going to be hanging out with Natasha and other creatures.

“Well, all the novels and movies and stuff, for one thing. And the bedtime stories about being turned to gingerbread by witches or sucked dry by vampires if you’re not good.”

“I’m pretty sure that first one isn’t something you actually hear,” Bucky points out. Isn’t that Hansel and Gretel? The Grim Brothers’ book may not have been around when Bucky and Steve were actual children, but it’s been around long enough that he knows Clint doesn't have it quite right.

Clint shrugs. “Well, I grew up in the circus anyway, I guess I can’t really talk about fucked up. Your apartment seems really normal is all. I have been led to believe that vampires like opulence.”

“Vampires like money,” Bucky points out. “Just like anyone else. And plenty of vampires have shitty taste.”

Clint laughs, a genuine sound of mirth. “Yeah, I get it.”

“But if you want opulence, ask Natasha to take you to see Tony sometime.”

“She’s told me about him.”

“She has?”

“Master of the city, right? He likes to build stuff?”

“Yeah, that’s Tony.”

“He sounds interesting.”

“Interesting is one word for it.”

“Did he make your arm?”

“You ask a lot of questions.”

Clint shrugs.

“He did, although I did not get it from him. Are you asking for info for Natasha?”

Clint shrugs again. Bucky more or less takes that as a yes, although he’s pretty sure Natasha already knows most of this, if not all of it.

Also, he’s pretty sure that Peggy and Natasha have met by now. If Natasha really wants information on Bucky and/or Steve, all she really needs to do is talk to Peggy or any of the wolves.

They’re all gossips, the wolves. Like a suburban book club or something. Not so much Peggy, but Bucky knows Peggy well enough to know that she would see the strategic value in sharing information about Steve and Bucky with a creature as powerful as Natasha, once Natasha made it clear that she liked Steve.

Oh, nothing too awfully intimate, and Bucky does not begrudge her that choice at all. He wouldn’t question many of Peggy’s decisions, not after having spent so much time with her. “Do as Peggy says,” is pretty much the unofficial company motto.

“You can keep asking if you want,” he says. Clint might be fishing, or he might just be curious, but Bucky finds himself liking him.

“I was mostly wondering about your arm,” Clint admits. He shrugs again, takes a sip of his coffee. “And your house.”

“Where did Steve and Natasha go?”

Clint gestures over his shoulder. “Steve said something about his workroom?”

Bucky nods. “Makes sense. You hungry?”

Clint shrugs again. “I could eat.”

--

Conversation with Clint is surprisingly easy, and Bucky finds he isn’t particularly surprised by that. He thinks maybe he should be, or maybe he was expecting to be surprised by Clint, but mostly he just enjoys hanging out with him.

He makes some food for Clint, and Clint only puts up a token protest at being fed, and they head back to the living room. Bucky turns on the tv and lets Clint decide on what he wants to watch.

Clint picks Animal Planet. There’s a show about lions and hunting, and Clint keeps glancing at Bucky out of the side of his eye. It’s actually pretty amusing. Bucky can tell he’s being a smartass, without uttering a single word. It’s impressive. His side-eye is nearly as good as Steve’s.

Eventually, Steve and Natasha reappear from Steve’s workroom, and Bucky can tell immediately that something has settled in Steve, and it is such a relief to feel him feeling better. More settled.

Steve crosses the room ang settles into Bucky’s lap, wrapping his arms around Bucky’s neck and resting his head on Bucky’s shoulder. Bucky puts his arms around Steve’s waist.

Natasha sits next to Clint like a normal person, but Clint puts his head on her shoulder and she tangles their fingers together.

‘Everything good?’ Bucky thinks at Steve, and moments later he plucks the ‘Yes’ from Steve’s thoughts.

They all sit in companionable silence for a while, watching Animal Planet. Eventually, when Clint’s been yawning about twice every three minutes, Natasha nudges him and he rouses. She stands up and looks at Steve and Bucky.

“We’re going to head out. It’s past Clint’s bedtime, I think.”

“It is,” Clint agrees cheerfully if a bit sleepily.

Steve starts to get up and Bucky just. Locks his arms around him. Steve protests a little, but he’s also giggling. Bucky turns his face into Steve’s shoulder where his grin won’t be quite as obvious.

“We’ll talk soon,” Natasha tells Steve. She leans over and kisses his cheek. “Good night, James.”

“Good night, Natasha,” Bucky replies. “G’night, Clint.”

“Night Bucky, night Steve,” Clint says. He doesn’t seem at all offended that neither of them have got up from the armchair.

“We’ll just let ourselves out, then,” Natasha says. It’s a bit pointed, but even Bucky can hear the smile in her voice.

Bucky doesn’t make any moves to go anywhere even once they’re gone, and Steve seems content to stay in his lap.

“That was rude,” he murmurs.

Bucky shrugs. “Natasha doesn’t care. Clint clearly doesn’t care either.”

“Still. Rude.”

“What did you and Natasha discuss? Or do, for that matter. You were in there for an awful long time. Leaving me alone with the human. Heartless witch.”

“Your heartless witch,” Steve murmurs.

“You are. Are you avoiding the question?”

Steve shrugs. “No, we just talked. She was very reassuring. It just made me feel better.”

“Did she do dragon magic on you?”

“No. She offered but she said it probably wouldn’t stop the lightning things so I said no.”

Bucky gives Steve a squeeze, comforting. “You were afraid?”

“She could probably fix it if she really tried but it might sever the bond.”

“I’m glad you said no.”

“I couldn’t just say yes, not without even talking to you about it.”

“I would probably have freaked out if you did.”

“I would have freaked out if it did.” Steve lifts his head and looks at Bucky. The light in his eyes is fierce and protective. He’s starting to glow, like he does sometimes when he’s feeling emotional. “I don’t want to lose it, Buck. I don’t want to lose you. I couldn’t risk it. I can’t. We don’t know what severing the bond would do. We don’t know if we could get it back. Not just to suppress whatever is going on with me. It’s not worth it. We’ll find another way.”

Bucky presses a kiss to his lips, as soft and tender and filled with love as he can make it. “We will find another way, Steve.”

“I know,” Steve says, and for the first time, it sounds like he believes it.

It’s a start.

“Want to go for a walk? Let’s get out of here for a bit. We’ve been staying too cooped up lately.”

“OK, yeah. Let’s go for a walk.”

Neither of them moves.

“You probably have to get up, Steve.”

Steve makes a grumpy noise, but he does get up, and they both get dressed enough to go outside and put on shoes, and they head out for a nice midnight stroll.

--

“OK, let’s go out to the house,” Steve finally says, after the next surge happens. He’s sprawled out in bed, where Bucky had carried him when he finally calmed down enough to be moved. “This is getting ridiculous and I don’t want to risk hurting anyone.”

“I think that is for the best,” Bucky replies, careful.

Steve turns his head to glare at him. “Grrr,” he says. He actually says it, grr.

“You said it!”

“I know,” Steve concedes, grudging. “I think it’s for the best too, I just don’t like it.” He makes a frustrated noise and throws his arms over his head.

Bucky suspects that he would flop, if he weren’t already laying in bed. It’s overly dramatic and utterly Steve. He smiles down at him. “Get some rest, sweetheart.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” Steve grumbles, but he’s already yawning, and his words are starting to slur together with sleep. It really takes a lot out of him.

Bucky stays with him until he’s asleep. Steve makes grabby hands at him when he gets up from the bed, but he leans over and smooths his hair back from his face presses a kiss to his forehead and murmurs, “I’m going to call Peggy. Rest, love,” and that plus the reassurance that Bucky tries to send him seems to be enough to calm him, at least for now.

He walks down the hall to the kitchen and sits down at the table with his phone, and calls Peggy.

“Yes, love,” she answers. “How’s Steve doing?”

Bucky sighs. “Not great, Pegs. I don’t know what’s going on, but it doesn’t seem to be getting better.”

“Poor dears,” she commiserates. “What can I do?”

“Who’s out at the house right now, anyone?”

“Monty’s there, and Morita. Shall I give them a ring?”

“Yeah, we’re gonna go up there. I’m gonna try to get us out of here tomorrow night. It’s too late to leave tonight, and Steve’s sleeping off another episode.”

Peggy makes an empathetic noise. “I’ll tell them you’re coming, ask Jim to stock the fridge out at the cabin for you, air it out a bit.”

“Thanks Pegs, you’re the best.”

“I know, darling. I need both of you in top shape, you know.”

“I know,” Bucky agrees. “I guess we’re going to take the train. Can you get one of the guys to meet us at the station?”

“Of course. You sure you don’t want to fly?”

“No. Not with Steve like this. A train won’t fall out of the sky in a lightning storm.”

Peggy is quiet for a moment. “Well, there is that to consider, I suppose. You’ll be cutting things close, taking the train.”

“I know. We’ll manage.”

“You always do.”

“Yeah.”

The conversation turns to other more mundane things, and Bucky talks to Peggy for a good long while. He doesn’t realize until they’ve gotten off the phone but he really needed that. Her sympathetic ear and no nonsense personality.

A friend. He’d needed a friend to talk to, for a while.

Bucky takes a moment to just breathe--even though he doesn’t actually need the oxygen, what with being undead and all--and then he sets about making arrangements to get them upstate to the house.

It’s a pain, but he manages to coordinate it so that he won’t end up dusted in the sun before it sets or after it rises the next morning.

He does some tidying up around the apartment, because he knows that Steve doesn’t like to leave the house in deshabille when they go away, and he does the preliminary packing for both of them.

He’s in bed when the sun comes up, and he snuggles into Steve as he drifts off to sleep.

--

By the time Bucky wakes up as the sun is going down the next evening, Steve is already out of bed, bustling around the room quietly, finishing up the packing. He seems to be in good spirits, all things considered.

“Time to get moving, Buck,” he says. “Can’t get caught by the sun in the morning.”

Bucky just stretches for a moment, watching Steve move around the room. “How do you know already?”

He’d meant to fill Steve in on the plans when he’d woken up tonight. But Steve is already filled in, clearly.

Steve gives him a ‘duh’ look. “Pegs texted me the whole thing. Jim or Monty is gonna meet us at the train station when we get there.”

“Oh. OK, good.”

“Yep, now get your ass in gear, Barnes.”

“Sir, yes sir.” And Bucky does.

The train is way more comfortable than flying, if you ask Bucky. Even if it’s nearly dawn when they get there, and he’s starting to worry just a little bit that they won’t make it.

Depending on how long they’re up here, they’ll hopefully just fly home again. But hopefully that will be because Steve is better, the power surges abated or at least completely under his control.

Jim is waiting for them outside the train station, leaning against the car. When he sees them he hurries forward to grab some of the bags from Steve and help them load everything in the trunk of the car.

“C’mon Sarge, I don’t need you dusting on me,” he says as he’s getting behind the wheel. “There’s a blanket in the back if you wanna put it over yourself.”

“Pretty sure that’s not going to actually help, Morita,” Bucky says, as he’s pulling the blanket over his lap.

“Worth a shot, anyway. We should be at the house before sunrise, at least. You might have to run out the cabin, though. Or hide out in the house for the day?”

Steve makes an unhappy noise. Bucky pulls him close and kisses his temple. “You don’t need to stay with me if I do gotta stay in the house, Steve. You go on down to the cabin, OK?”

Steve looks up at him. “You sure?”

“Yes. Very sure. Don’t go in the house if you don’t want to.”

“I never want to.”

“I know, sweetheart.”

“I hate that house.”

“I know you do. Hence the fire.”

Steve smiles a little. “Hence the fire.”

They make it to the house with a few minutes to spare. Bucky thinks for a bare second before he decides. “I’m gonna run for it. See you down there?”

“You just wanna get out of carrying the bags,” Morita intones.

Bucky points at him. “I admit nothing.”

And then he makes a run for it.

He makes it to the cabin with moments to spare, crashing inside and down the hall to the back bedroom, the light proof room. He shuts the door with a sigh and pulls his phone out to text Steve.

‘Made it safe.’

‘Good. Be there in a bit. Morita’s bringing around the golf cart.’

Bucky laughs. Of course they bought a golf cart. ‘They bought a golf cart?!’

‘Apparently.’

About ten minutes later, Bucky hears Steve and Morita come into the cabin, chatting and laughing about something.

“Buck, we’re here,” Steve yells down the hall.

“OK!” Bucky calls back. He is already stripped down to his skivvies and in bed with the covers pulled up to his chin.

The sheets aren’t musty, and Bucky thanks his lucky stars for Peggy, because she is no doubt the reason that fresh sheets are on this bed, along with the certainly well stocked fridge and pantry that Steve is probably finding right that very second.

Indeed, Steve slides carefully into the room a few moments later with a plate and a cup of water. He kicks the door shut behind him and sits on the other side of the bed.

“You good, Buck?”

“Yeah, I’m fine Stevie. Not even singed.”

“Good. I’m starving. I dunno why traveling makes me so hungry.”

“Stress, I would guess. You gonna sleep soon?” Steve had slept for a bit on the train, so Bucky isn’t sure when he’ll turn in.

“Uh, I’ll probably stay up a bit. Do you want me to leave you alone to sleep?” Steve asks this around a mouthful of whatever his snack is.

“No, but also yes?”

Steve laughs. “OK, I’ll leave in a minute. Let me finish my sandwich.”

“Morita gone already?”

“Yeah, he said he has some stuff to do up at the house. He’ll be down around sunset, along with Monty.”

“Oh, good.” Bucky yawns.

“I’ll let you get to sleep now.”

“OK. Love you, Steve.”

“Love you too, Buck.”

Bucky drifts off with Steve’s words floating through his head.

--

When he wakes up that night, Steve is asleep in his arms, and he is warm and cozy under the pile of blankets on the bed. The sun has just set; he can feel it.

Steve stirs and mumbles something incoherent, and Bucky kisses the top of his head. He’s not ready to get up just yet either.

Bucky drifts for a while with Steve breathing steadily against him. He can feel the little puffs of each exhalation against the bare skin of his chest, and it is incredibly soothing, feeling Steve’s life, his aliveness against his skin. The rise and fall of his back under Bucky’s hand. The beating of his heart against his chest.

It’s a reminder that Steve is alive, and it’s one he treasures.

He doesn’t want to think about how he’d almost lost Steve when he’d only just finally found him. He doesn’t want to think about the hell Steve had gone through, or the hell he’d gone through as well. He doesn’t want to think about the things he still doesn’t remember because of Zola.

“You’re thinking too loud,” Steve mumbles. “Everything is OK and we’re here together.”

“Sorry,” Bucky says. “I was just worrying.”

“Well, stop it.”

“OK.”

“Is it time to get up?”

“Yeah, just about. Especially if Monty and Jim are coming down tonight.”

“Ugh.”

“Yeah, I know. But it’s the guys, it’ll be nice to see them.”

“Yeah, you’re right.” Steve still doesn’t move.

Bucky doesn’t move either. He smiles up at the ceiling and waits a little while longer to get the night started.

--

The next few days pass in a haze for Bucky and, he suspects, for Steve as well. He spends a lot of time in his underground workshop. At first, he’s just clearing things out, because the wolves all know better than to mess with any of Steve’s magical stuff.

After that, Bucky is fairly certain that he’s poring over his books, trying to find answers. From the way Steve mutters in his sleep and also from his rants to Bucky, it seems that he’s not finding many answers.

The power surges seem to be getting more frequent, as well as stronger. It’s taking ages for Steve to get through them now, and Bucky knows because he’s the one who holds Steve through them, while he’s shaking and shivering and crackling with lightning.

He hasn’t told Steve this, but his eyes glow with it, when the lightning has a hold of him.

He feels helpless, and he knows that Steve feels the same way.

Morita and Monty do what they can, to try and help. They bring food and good cheer, but even that seems to wear a bit thin after the first week or so, when the surges are happening every day. Bucky can tell they feel just as helpless as he does. At least there’s some solidarity there.

He doesn't know if the surges are increasing naturally, or if there’s something about being out at the house that is making them more frequent, but he does sort of think that Steve’s worry about them might be making them worse?

He doesn’t know. There’s no way to know. None of the research Steve has done has given him any insight into what’s going on. Both Jim and Monty have done what they can to help with that, going through the books at the house, but as it turns out Steve had long ago stolen most of the books on magic from Pierce’s library and brought them down to his cabin, so there’s not a whole lot that’s still up there, not of any sort of magical value, anyway.

Steve is starting to lose hope. He spends more time sleeping than anything else, after the second week. The surges just take everything out of him, all he does is eat and sleep when he’s not in the throes of one.

Bucky does his best to keep a good face, but he’s at his wits’ end by the second week. All he can do is watch Steve suffer, or watch Steve sleep.

It’s almost a mercy, that Steve is sleeping so much. At least when he’s asleep he’s not afraid of another attack, or having another attack.

Small mercies.

--

It goes on like that for a few weeks.

They’re barely hanging on. Steve is all deeply shadowed eyes and hollowed cheeks, no matter how much Bucky tries to get him to eat. It doesn’t seem to do anything against the exhaustion weighing on him, or the power surges that still happen nearly every day.

And then something happens.

They’re sitting on the couch in the living room, around midnight, holding each other close in a rare moment of peace, when there’s a crack of thunder and lightning outside, a wild, bright flash of light.

Bucky feels Steve’s wards flare around the house, and Steve lifts his head from Bucky’s shoulder with a “the hell is that?”

“Stay here,” Bucky says, standing up and going to the door.

There’s a big dude walking into the clearing. He’s ridiculously tall and muscular, and he’s wearing a cape.

That’s new.

He stops just outside Steve’s wards--like he can feel them or something--and lifts his arm in greeting. “Well met,” he calls. “You must be James.”

“Who are you?” Bucky calls back. He can feel Steve walking up behind him, but he just stands close so he can hear, he doesn’t make himself known.

“I am Thor Odinson,” he returns. “I come to offer help. I am a… friend of her grace, the lady Natasha.”

“He’s probably OK, Buck,” Steve murmurs. “If Nat sent him.”

Bucky turns his head a bit. “Do you want to lower the wards?”

“No, if he means no harm he’ll be able to pass through safely.”

Bucky looks back at Thor, who is waiting with every indication that he could do so forever.

“Well, come on in,” Bucky calls to him. “You came all this way already.”

Thor steps forward, through the wards easily. They crackle visibly around him, but Thor doesn’t seem to really notice. To Bucky, it doesn’t seem like a negative sort of crackling. It feels almost welcoming. Like they recognize him.

“Whoa,” Steve murmurs. “That’s new.”

“Is it bad?”

“Dunno.” He steps to Bucky’s side, and takes his hand.

Thor walks across the clearing towards them. He pauses when the crows all swoop around him, cawing. He waits a moment, and then says, clearly to the crows, “Well met, fellows. I will pass your greetings to my father upon my return.”

“He knows the crows?” Bucky mutters.

Steve nudges him. Bucky grins down at him.

Thor stops at the bottom of the porch stairs, standing easy. He has a big fuck off hammer in one hand. He inclines his head to them. “Thank you for allowing me on your land. May I enter?”

Bucky glances at Steve, who shrugs. “Come on in,” Bucky says. He takes a step back, out of the doorway, tugging Steve along with him. Behind them, Thor comes up the stairs, his steps remarkably soft for such a large man.

He follows Steve and Bucky into the house, and they go to the living room, such as it is. The furniture here is a little threadbare these days, a bit shabby. Neither of them has ever thought that it might need updating, especially since they spend so little time here.

But with Thor in the room, with his cape and his hammer and his general demeanor that just screams “fancy”, it all seems a bit more shabby than usual.

Thor doesn’t seem to notice, though. He gingerly puts the hammer down on the coffee table, and looks around. “May I sit?”

“Please,” Steve says. “Would you like something to drink? Tea, or water?”

“Beer?” Thor asks hopefully.

“I don’t think we have any, I’m sorry.”

“Water is fine,” Thor concedes. “Thank you.”

Bucky gestures at the couch. “I’ll get it. Steve, sit.”

Steve doesn’t even argue, he just sinks down onto the couch, and Bucky knows that he’s still exhausted.. Bucky heads to the kitchen to get a glass of water for Thor, and one for Steve, too.

When he returns with the water, Steve and Thor are just kind of staring at each other.

It’s a little awkward, so that’s great.

“So,” Bucky says, as he hands out the water. “Natasha sent you?”

He sits next to Steve on the couch. Immediately, Steve leans into him, and Bucky knows that it’s part comfort, part exhaustion, and maybe part solidarity. Neither of them knows Thor, for all that he projects friendliness.

“She asked that I come and offer my assistance. And she tells me that we may have much in common.”

Bucky and Steve exchange a glance. Physically, Steve and Thor probably couldn’t be further apart, for all that they’re both blond and blue-eyed.

“What’s that?” Steve asks.

Thor holds out his hand, and his fingers crawl with lightning. Lightning that looks quite a bit like the lightning that Steve’s power has been manifesting as. He closes his fist slowly, and the lightning crackles its way up his arm and then dissipates.

“Oh,” Steve says.

Thor smiles, a big, friendly smile. “May I see yours, friend Steven?”

“Uh. I’m not sure that’s a great idea.”

“Perhaps you would feel better if we were to sojourn outside? If you fear for your furniture.”

Steve snorts, but he also stands up and says, “Yeah that might be better. I try not to burn buildings down anymore.”

“I would like to hear that tale,” Thor says with a laugh.

He seems like a good guy. Or perhaps a good god; Bucky isn’t sure. Thor Odinson is definitely the oldest son of Odin according to Norse lore, but also Bucky doesn’t really believe in god, or gods. He believes in magic and in Steve.

But that doesn't make Thor any less solid in front of him.

They all get up and troop outside, Steve leading the way and Bucky bringing up the rear. He stays on the porch to watch as Steve goes down into the yard.

The crows all swoop around him and Thor for a moment. One of them lands briefly on Steve’s shoulder, and picks at his hair for a moment. Steve reaches up and strokes its chest, and it caws in his ear and flies off to join his brethren.

“Friends of yours?” Thor asks.

Steve shrugs. “I like to think so. They occasionally deign to act as familiars for me, or did. I don’t live here anymore, but this is their home.”

Thor nods.

“Ready?” Steve asks.

Thor nods again, makes a go ahead gesture, and Steve shuts his eyes.

Bucky can’t look away, as the power crawls over Steve in the form of lightning. He doesn’t call it gradually this time, but seemingly all at once.

Thor watches with what Bucky thinks might be a thoughtful look, unafraid even though the lightning hits him a few times.

But then, after what Thor had shown them earlier, that isn’t exactly surprising.

Eventually, Steve lets the power go, and it bleeds off into the ground around him, the only trace a couple of small scorch marks. He blinks, and sways in place for a moment--Bucky has to fight the urge to run to his side and prop him up, but he knows Steve would not thank him for that--and looks at Thor.

“You are powerful,” Thor says. He sounds thoughtful.

Steve shrugs.

“You are, there’s no sense in denying it. Let’s go back inside, shall we?” Thor doesn’t say that Steve looks done in, but he does. He is apparently a tactful… whatever he is.

They all go back inside and sit down again. Steve leans on Bucky again, and Bucky puts his arm around him.

“How long have you been having this problem?” Thor asks, when they’re all settled.

“A month or two?” Steve answers.

Has it really only been a couple months? Has it really already been a couple months? Bucky is momentarily blown.

“And prior to that, you had no issues?”

“No.”

“No increase in the use of your magic after a period of time where you did not?”

“Didn’t what?”

“When you did not use the magic you possess. Or perhaps you were suppressing the full extent of your capabilities? For an extended amount of time.”

Both Steve and Bucky stare at Thor for a long moment, before Steve admits, “Yeah, I was suppressing myself for. A while.”

“A very long while, I should think,” Thor says.

Steve shrugs, and Bucky tightens his arm around Steve’s shoulders.

Thor’s face lights up. “Ah, it is as I suspected.”

“It is?”

“Indeed, my friend. Magic often has a mind of its own, but more importantly, it likes to stretch to fit the vessel in which it lives. You kept your magic contained and held down for a long time, and now that you are not, it is stretching out within you. The storms are a symptom of this.”

“OK,” Steve says slowly.

“They should abate shortly, and I think you will find that things requiring magic come easier, and perhaps even that you can do more than you could before.”

“Huh.”

Thor smiles at Steve, gentle and fond--Bucky definitely notices the fondness, and the way Steve feels a tiny little zing at Thor’s smile--”I must confess, however, that I do not know as much about magic as I do about lightning. My mother would be a far better person to speak with on magic; she is renowned throughout Asgard for her magical skills. Or maybe my brother, although. Maybe not Loki.”

“Where’s Asgard?” Bucky asks, because that does not sound like anywhere on Earth that he’s heard of.

Thor turns his electric smile on Bucky, and Bucky suddenly understands that little zing Steve had felt under his gaze. “That, my friend, is a tale best left to another time. I should take my leave. I hope I’ve been helpful, Steven. Or at least reassuring.”

“You have been,” Steve says. “Both. And you’re welcome to stay. I can put together some food if you want to stay.”

“Alas, I cannot this time. I’m not exactly supposed to be on Midgard right now, but the Lady Natasha begged a boon of me. I hope our paths cross again.”

Steve and Bucky both take that as the clear good-bye it is, and they show Thor to the door, waving as he heads down the stairs and disappears into the trees.

“That was weird,” Steve says, when it’s clear that Thor is gone.

“Natasha has interesting friends,” Bucky agrees. He stands at the door for a few moments longer, long enough to see the brilliant flash of light through the trees, there and gone again. Weird.

“Do you think he’s right?”

Bucky turns back to Steve. “Yeah, I kinda do. Nat wouldn’t send someone just to fuck with you, Stevie.”

“No, that wouldn’t be like her at all, that’s true.”

“I guess we wait it out a few more days and see what happens?”

“Yeah,” Steve agrees. “I wish he could’ve just snapped his fingers and made it stop happening.”

“No, you don’t.”

“No. I don’t.” Steve yawns, long and huge. It’s not all that close to dawn, but Bucky can tell it’s getting to be time for Steve to get some shut eye, still exhausted from the flurry of storms over the past few days.

“Come on, let’s crawl into bed and watch some movies.”

“Yeah, OK.” Steve stands up, and follows Bucky down the hall when he takes his hand and gives a little tug.

Steve’s asleep within ten minutes, and Bucky is content to lay in bed with Steve pressed close against him and watch movies while Steve snores gently and drools a little into his chest.

--

It’s still a couple more days with storms, but they do start to taper off soon after Thor’s visit. Bucky doesn't know about Steve, but he is immensely grateful for that.

Soon enough, the shadows under Steve’s eyes are starting to fade, just a tiny bit. He’s still sleeping an awful lot, even for him, but it’s starting to finally have an effect. When he’s awake, he mostly watches TV and eats.

Bucky watches all of this happen with increasing amusement. Steve is more or less aware of his amusement, but he seems OK with it. Or at least, he seems like he doesn’t care that Bucky is so amused.

He probably just doesn’t have the energy yet, and Bucky will hear all about it once he’s fully himself again.

Bucky’s OK with that.

He’s OK with everything right now, because Steve has taken a turn for the better.

He’s started going outside during the storms, and trying to bleed off the excess power. Once he gets a bit more rested, he’s started using his magic more around the cabin as well. There’s always soft lights glowing in little orbs in the corners of the ceilings. There’s always a faint breeze blowing, even though none of the windows are open, and it always smells fresh and clean. Candles have appeared everywhere (Bucky imagines they were all in Steve’s workshop, but he rarely goes down there) and they burst into flame as soon as Steve enters any room, and snuff out just as quickly when he leaves.

The breeze is helpful with keeping the whole cabin from smelling like smoke all the time.

When it’s been three days since the last storm, they start tentatively planning to go back to New York. They invited Morita and Monty down for another dinner, and have a good time sitting around in the living room for hours afterwards, trading stories--mostly of the Howlies, since Steve doesn’t really like to share his stories (also his stories are generally too depressing in one way or another)--and laughing.

They morning before they are to leave for New York (they’re flying this time, just to tempt fate immensely), they curl up together in bed. Bucky is excited to be going home. New York has become completely their home, and the way that Steve feels about this place definitely affects him too.

“I’m happy we’re going home,” Steve mumbles into his chest, somewhere near his armpit.

Bucky gives him a little squeeze. “Me too.”

After a few minutes, he remembers something Steve had said a while ago. “Do you think this was it?”

“Was what, Buck?”

“That thing you felt coming. Do you think this was it?”

Steve hums, thoughtful. “I dunno, really. Maybe?”

Bucky makes a thoughtful noise of his own. “Well, here’s hoping.”

Steve chuckles. “I know, right?”