“Cap? Are you reading? Cap, are you okay?” came Sam Wilson’s worried voice over the coms. “Stark, do you have eyes on Cap?”
“You lose ‘im again, Wilson? What am I, the Cap Whisperer?”
“You got better flexibility close to the ground than I do, man. He looked like he was hurt last time I saw him -“
Tony’s demeanor immediately changed. Captain America didn’t get hurt. And if he did, it was serious. Rogers was so frigging self-sacrificing, he’d bleed out before he asked for help. And putting samples of his blood out in the open was its own special problem.
Tony demanded coordinates of where Cap had last been seen, and dropped down just a few feet above traffic as he raced toward where Cap had last been seen, JARVIS scanning ahead.
“I have located Captain Rogers, sir. He is in an alley up ahead. His heart rate is up, and he appears to be in some distress.”
“Distress for Cap is like near death for a normal human. Shit, on it.”
Tony zoomed over the cars, flew under the traffic lights, and turned sharply down the alley JARVIS had indicated. He could see what Wilson meant - this was one of the narrow alleys tucked between massive buildings, coffee shops and sweat shops on the street level, swankier offices on the next. Just wide enough for a truck to lumber down and offload onto the loading docks that lined the alley. A truck blocked the entrance now, so Tony just flew over it, dropping down on the other side to see Cap hunkered down in a grimy alcove, tucked up against the wall like he was trying to make himself smaller shuddering and groaning and ...
What the actual fuck?
Rogers was pressed against the wall, fist flying over a monster of a dick, groaning as he came with a prodigious splash of jizz, painting a new graffiti tag on the dirty bricks.
“Cap?” Tony squeaked as he stepped out of the suit.
“Stay back, Tony. I don’t want you to see me like this,” Cap answered, his voice wrecked and desperate.
“I can’t let that stain stay there, either. You couldn’t hold it ‘til you got to the tower? You had to rub one out in a goddamned alley?”
“You don’t understand -“
“Sir,” JARVIS interrupted suddenly, “I do believe the Captain is in serious distress. His heart rate is continuing to climb, to levels dangerous even for him. His entire system is in overdrive. I believe he may be going into what used to be called ‘rut’.”
“What, that old alpha/omega stuff? That pretty much died out a couple of generations ago - oh. After his time. Okay, old man, put that monster back where it belongs and let me clean the scene of the crime. We’re heading back to the tower to get you checked out, okay?”
Cap chose that moment to drop weakly to his knees as he pawed at his crotch trying to shove his dick back in his tac pants. “Goddamned Coulson and his uniform designs,” he muttered, but he was decent by the time Tony edged up to him and put the back of his hand against Cap’s forehead.
“Shit, you’re burning up,” Tony swore, then mentally called the suit back so he had access to his tech. “Complete neutralization, J. Need to break down that organic stain so nothing is left.”
“On it, sir,” JARVIS replied, and a cauterizing beam emanated from Tony’s palm, evaporating the stain and leaving the brick only slightly more charred looking. Then Tony bent down to scoop up the nearly unconscious super-soldier, and rocketed up into the air, bound for Stark Tower.
“The genotype has all but died out,” Bruce was saying.
“In the last couple of generations. Since our boy’s time.”
“There’s no mention of a secondary designation in any of his records.”
“Ross made sure I had access to more than public, Tony.”
“Dad’s notes don’t mention it either, do they, J?”
“No, sir. Then again, it might have been considered too delicate a thing to record for posterity. A privacy issue, perhaps.”
“The US government literally believed they owned him, I don’t think they would be delicate about something like that.”
“Well, it’s not like sex was openly discussed in 1943.”
“That’s not the way my Dad told the story.”
“I think we can all agree that Howard Stark was not quite typical of the time, Tony.”
“Yeah, maybe. Maybe it’s there, but it’s not in terms we would use today.”
“Hmm. You might be right. Look here. ‘Subject requires no suppressant. Exhibits no interest, even when presented with appropriate targets.’ Targets?”
“They must have tried to get him to go feral, and he didn’t. Requires no suppressant - nothing triggered a rut? I mean, they’re creepy as fuck, but I can see the SSR looking to make him more aggressive - “
“They did. They wanted a soldier they could point and release to destroy,” Steve said as he came into the common room, rubbing a towel against his freshly showered hair. He was wearing just sweatpants, and from where Tony and Bruce were standing at the breakfast bar, they could easily see the outline of his significant package. According to lore, alphas tended to be extremely well-endowed, with ravenous sexual appetites. An alpha in rut could be dangerous to anyone around him, and consent was often not even an afterthought.
An alpha with Steve’s power, aggression let loose ... he would’ve been a formidable if unthinking foe.
Instead, they got Steve Rogers, one of the finest military minds of his or any generation, a man known for restraint and iron control.
It didn’t compute.
“Is that coffee I smell?” he nodded toward the diabolical machine that Tony had designed himself.
Tony grinned and nodded, and Bruce set about pouring a cup for the Captain. Steve accepted the mug gratefully, letting the towel drop around his neck as he inhaled the fragrant steam. Then he downed it in one gulp and held out the mug for more.
“Um, not to be indelicate, but what the hell?”
“Sorry, I’m craving. I, uh, I’ve never been, you know. In rut. Before.”
“No. The SSR was frustrated by the fact that nothing triggered a rut in me. I was just as happy not to have to go through that bullshit. Most of the knotheads just used it as an excuse to be horrible people, justify taking what they wanted without consequences. I didn’t want to lose control and hurt someone. And then it turned out nothing made a difference anyway.”
“So you never ...?”
“Never felt sexual attraction, never felt much need even for, you know,” he curled his fist and pumped up and down. “Always kinda felt like there was something broken about me, to tell you the truth.”
“But you and Aunt Peggy -“
“We got on fine, and I maybe had a little bit of a crush. But I never felt the urge to take it further. I think she might’ve been a little disappointed, but it helped our working relationship that we weren’t getting horizontal together.”
“So you’ve never -“
“You keep asking that. No, Tony. I’ve never felt sexual attraction toward someone else. I’ve been reading up, and I think I might be ace. And no, I’ve never had sex. Never really saw the point of it, to be honest. And let me tell you, it’s not for lack of trying by the SSR. They practically ordered me to copulate with willing women in order to breed super soldiers.”
“I ... wow. Eugenics. It makes sense. Hitler was breeding his lebensborn, so of course our side wanted their own version.”
“Yeah, well, they learned pretty quickly I wasn’t going along with that. Fact is, I couldn’t even get it up. Like I said, now I have access to real information, I’m pretty sure I’m ace. Or I thought I was. What happened today ... thanks, y’know? I’m sorry you had to see me like that, but I really appreciate the assist.”
“But we still don’t know what triggered the rut. And are you done with it?”
“I guess so? I don’t know. I was guiding some civilians out of the area of conflict, and suddenly I felt hot all over. Everything hurt. And my dick ... Jesus. Is that what libido feels like? It sucks, if it does. All I could think about was getting off. I felt like I was gonna burst outta my uniform if I didn’t do something about it right then.”
“Which was why you were in the alley.”
“I needed to get relief. I was going nuts - like, literally, I felt like my brain was melting -“
Bruce spoke up then, rubbing his chin thoughtfully while he toyed with his glasses with the other hand. “Y’know, there are stories. About compatible mates. Triggering each other. I mean, it’s all anecdotal considering there’s no real active population of alphas and omegas any longer. But maybe someone in that crowd you were protecting ... maybe one of those people is your mate, and that’s what triggered your rut.”
“I’ve heard of that. It wasn’t common in my time, either, but it did happen. Your perfect person, hand-picked by fate. Romantic idea, but if it’s real, it kicked my ass. But if they triggered my rut, does that mean -“
“More than likely, you triggered their heat. And considering how rare omegas are in modern society, it might have been as much of a shock to them as it was to you.”
Tony grinned manically, rubbing his hands together. “Which means they might have been admitted to the hospital, which means a trail we can follow to find them. Where did this heroic act take place?”
Steve told him, but then he added, “Tony, I don’t want to invade someone’s privacy -“
“Look, Cap. As rotten as you feel your response was, imagine them. They don’t have me to help them along. They don’t have Bruce to come up with a chemical agent to keep your rut in check next time. They’re going through this alone. Probably unexpectedly. They might not even know they have the omega secondary gender. We can help. And maybe - just maybe, mind you - we find your mate. Your soulmate, even. Isn’t that worth it?”
“He’s going to ignore you anyway, so you might as well just accept it, Steve. We’ll stick to publicly accessible information -“
“We will? J, assemble all security cam and cellphone video data from that area at the time Cap was active. Do facial recognition and cross reference with hospitalizations - also include urgent care centers and private medical offices. Somebody had a bad day today, and we’re gonna make it better!
Bucky took his “goodie bag” with a grimace, and signed his release paperwork. The doctor, an older man with graying, thinning hair and a distinctly uncomfortable air, sat on the edge of the bed watching him. Of course he was uncomfortable - Bucky was suddenly a biological freak with a fucking leaky asshole.
“We don’t have much good data about the condition,” the doctor was maundering on, “since the last documented US case was in the 1960s. I’ll do some poking around online - there may be more recent data elsewhere in the world. Scandinavia, perhaps.”
Yeah, because all the deviant sex shit came out of that part of the world.
“I’d like to see you again in a week. Make an appointment at the desk on your way out. For now, I believe you’re stabilized, but we’ll need to monitor closely, I think. And of course, there is the potential for surgical intervention ...”
Oh yes. Because suddenly Bucky had this “vestigial womb” sitting at the top of his rectum that none of his doctors ever noticed because it had been smaller than the size of a pea, and now it had more than tripled in size. Like he could get knocked up and shit out a baby.
Christ. Aliens. Superheroes. And now he was a frigging genetic throwback with a self-lubricating ass.
Well, that had potential, but the possibility of pregnancy, not at all. And the idea he might have to wear a goddamned maxi-pad up his crack ... And then there were the damned meds.
“Yeah, thanks Doc. I’m feeling way better now. I’m just gonna head home, okay?”
“Make the appointment, Mr. Barnes. You just endured three days of an unexpected and severe omega heat. The first recorded in this country in nearly 50 years. And we don’t know what caused it. What might cause it again. If you have any symptoms - any at all - you need to call me,” he added handing over his card. “Day or night. My service will put you through immediately.”
Bucky accepted the card slowly. “You’re worried.”
“I apologize for letting that bleed through. But yes, I am. We don’t know why this happened. Which means whatever triggered it, could trigger it again. That’s why you have to take the suppressants. They’ll help mitigate the response, at least until we can determine a more permanent solution.”
Bucky found his irritation bleeding away, replaced by a mixture of fear and cold fury. Whatever did this to him, he was going to hunt it down and kill it. Dead.
“What could trigger a, whaddid you call it, a heat?”
“The literature suggests a compatible alpha in the near vicinity. But there hasn’t been an American alpha even longer than there’ve been no omegas. Someone that ... potent ... would likely have been similarly affected. There were no reports of a feral alpha, so I think it’s unlikely. Environmental changes in the late ‘50s into the ‘60s stunted the development of the secondary organs until they just disappeared entirely. And yet here you are, born and raised in the same environment. If you’d be willing, I’d love to write a paper about it - your personal information would be redacted, of course -“
“We can talk about that later, Doc. I really just wanna get home and get comfy with my cat for a year or two. I’m craving takeout from my local Chinese place, too. So unless there’s something that can’t wait, I’d really like to get going before surge prices kick in.”
“Yes, of course. Don’t forget - make the appointment, take the meds, and call me if you have any recurrent symptoms. Anything out of the ordinary at all.”
God, that hospital was depressing. And that doctor! Bucky had already forgotten the guy’s name, convinced he would not take that appointment, and he was never going to call. As a self-employed blogger, he had minimal health insurance, and that three-day stay was likely to wipe out his bank account for the foreseeable future. He wasn’t about to compound the error by going back for more.
Bucky was good about sheltering in place, and managing with very little. He’d be fine.
He did pop for the Lyft, since the idea of cramming into the subway car with the possibility of springing a leak from his ass was just ... no.
He had a prescription for a compounding pharmacist to make him slick-stopping suppositories, but hell if he was spending money on something like that. He supposed he could shove a tampon up there if he had to. So many things he never thought he’d have to think about. If he ever found the creep who did this to him ... well, he wasn’t sure what he’d do, exactly, but he knew he’d be brainstorming and fantasizing about it until this nightmare was over.
Because it would be over. There was no other option. It would.
In the meantime, once he got home and made up to Alpine, and paid obeisance to his sister Becca for taking care of his cat while he was laid up, he was going to have to give some serious thought to ways to raise funds, and fast.
As much as he’d prefer to do some new posts on his blog, it looked like gig economy for him for a while. He’d check Upwork and some of his other gig accounts, and see what he could pick up. He was motivated, so he could write fast, maybe pick up some technical work, too. It would be nice if he could get some work in his field - he was a frigging PhD from MIT for Christ’s sake - but his intolerance for idiocy and bullshit had closed off too many doors to him over the past couple of years. The one place he knew he’d fit in perfectly had just never called him back, despite several follow-ups on his part.
So, gig work it was.
“I believe I have located Captain Rogers’ counterpart, sirs.”
“Let’s see the data, J,” Bruce answered, pulling up JARVIS’s search parameters in the air in front of him, and studying them with a frown. Then he realized he hadn’t put on his glasses, and the frown smoothed out. “Nice,” he murmured.
“What’s nice?” Steve asked anxiously, hovering nearby.
“The data and the analysis. JARVIS captured local security cam video, collected data on all the cell phones in the area, cross-referenced against hospital admissions ... looks like there was someone in that crowd who was taken by ambulance ... oh. Three days in the hospital.”
“They were hospitalized? I hospitalized someone? An innocent civilian -“
“Slow your roll, Spangles. You didn’t do anything to anybody. Your biology - something you had no control over - did exactly what we expected,” Tony corrected. “We’re gonna make it right, right?”
Bruce was still sifting through the data, and looked up at the mid-air display. “So it looks like we have a name and a face,” he announced, throwing the video up on the display and expanding it so it was the size of a big screen TV.
Steve looked up at the image floating before him, frowning.
“Well, it’s maybe not ideal. Pep will have the PR department manage any fallout. I mean, it’s not like you actually have to do anything. We’re gonna take care of it, get an NDA signed, make sure they’re taken care of -“
“He’s beautiful,” Steve breathed, reaching a hand up to trace along the cut of his cheekbones, the cleft of his chin.
“Wait, you like men?”
“I like this one. And - oh crap, I think you’re right, he’s the one.”
“Oh crap? Explain.”
“I think I feel another rut coming on,” Steve shuddered, and glanced down at his crotch, where his dick was clearly fattening up.
“Well, congrats, Cap. You’re not so ace after all. Maybe demi. That may not be rut, by the way. Could just be a good old-fashioned hard-on. We got a name and deets on lover boy here?”
“James Barnes. Lives in Brooklyn. And his medical records bear out our theory - he’s the first omega recorded in the US since the 1960s. His doctor’s planning on writing a monograph at least. Ugh. He’s been put on some nasty stuff to manage symptoms. We can do much better.”
“You’re hacking into his medical records?”
Bruce shrugged. “Part of the data J collated. Look, I think it would be best if he came to the tower - we need to get him on something better than that doctor prescribed. Guy’s about to have his libido killed, and his brain fogged otherwise.”
“We’ll have HR reach out, schedule an appointment tomorrow. Tomorrow good for you, Cap? To meet your one and only?”
“I get to meet him?”
“Well, yeah. Don’t you think that’s a good idea?”
“But what if, you know, we trigger each other? Make it worse?”
“I’ll be honest, having a clear idea of the response, the symptoms, will help me formulate something to help manage them without the side effects.”
“Great. I’ll have HR call him in, have him sign the NDA, give him the surgeon general’s warnings, and you can meet him while you,” Tony pointed at Bruce, “cure him. Efficient, done deal. Maybe even fun. And why do I think I know this guy? Hmm? Never mind. We okay?”
“Well, I was hoping for more enthusiasm than that, but we’ll work with what we got.”
Bucky stared at his e-mail for a solid minute before punching his fist up toward the ceiling and screaming, “Fuck, yeah!”
His luck was changing, he just knew it.
Now he was standing in front of the mirror on the back of his bedroom door, studying his reflection critically. He needed to make a good first impression to get past HR, but bland and corporate wasn’t going to score him points with the big guy. He couldn’t afford Tom Ford, so he couldn’t dazzle with a great cut and a better label. Put him in the room, and he could make the case for himself. It was getting past the bean counters that always thwarted him.
He’d submitted his resume two years ago, and he’d been following up at least once a month, oftentimes more. He always got stonewalled, passed around, put on hold, and forgotten. Until he tried again this last time.
Finally. Finally he’d made it to the next level.
Bucky sat in the conference room, staring morosely at the NDA - all three inches of it - sitting in front of him waiting for his signature. Not for a job interview, no. No, he was here to meet the creep who caused his whole “situation.”
He was tech-savvy enough to know they had to do some illegal snooping, probably piggybacked on security cam footage, maybe trolled cellphone data, and violated HIPAA in a massive way to identify him as the poor schmuck whose life was ruined by whoever Alpha Boy was.
He was pretty sure he could sue for a variety of pricey reasons, maybe even sell his story to a tabloid or two for a major payday.
But that would reveal to the world that he was a freak, and that wasn’t something he was really ready to deal with.
And the fuckers knew it, he was sure.
So he sat there silently, glaring at the gargantuan pile of paper they expected him to sign, then glared at the very tasty, sugary, whippy coffee drink he was provided, and the equally very tasty, sugary, pastries they’d left in a tastefully tied box, and he sighed.
Well, at least he hadn’t worn a frigging tie. He looked good in his cranberry crewneck sweater, and buttery soft black leather jacket. He’d even tamed his hair with a bit of a French braid, and tucked the end up so his hair looked a bit bobbed rather than birdnesty.
He looked good. He looked hirable. He even looked professional.
But apparently none of that mattered.
And then he felt it.
Cramping, like that day on the street.
A trickle, just a drop sliding down inside. He’d opted for the heavy-duty tampon, and a maxi-pad, just in case. Becca had been a godsend in supplying him with the stuff. It had taken some careful maneuvering to make his ass look good anyway, but he’d pulled it off.
And now apparently, here was the payoff.
He grabbed the coffee and took a swig, regretting momentarily that he hadn’t taken any of the suppressants he’d been given. But what he read online told him that he was not only going to be chemically castrated, he’d be practically lobotomized as well. He couldn’t afford that. Literally.
The cramping was increasing, to the point where he was wincing from the sparks of pain. And want. He hadn’t really noticed that before, not when he’d thought he was dying. Desire started to flicker at the edges of his awareness.
Compatible alpha. He’d read up on that, too. He wasn’t interested in a caveman scenario, but the idea of big and loaded with stamina? It had its charms. But not if he was gonna hurt like a sonovabitch every time he got near the guy.
Well, the answer was simple. Never get near the guy.
But damn, he was really hoping he could work here.
Geeze, what if it was Tony Stark himself?
Wasn’t he in a committed relationship with Pepper Potts?
For Tony Stark, Bucky thought he might be willing to be a kept piece on the side. So long as it came with a lab.
He let that fantasy carry him for a moment until he was broken out of his reverie by a respectful knock on the door.
The HR drone opened the door when he called out, “Yeah?” and stepped in, still holding the doorknob. Bucky couldn’t help the way his posture suddenly pulled up straight, feeling like he was standing at attention. He barely held his hand back from a reflexive salute.
“If you’ve signed the agreement, Mr. Barnes, there is someone who’d like to meet you.”
At that moment, the cramps ratcheted up and he felt himself doubling over, feeling the urge to puke. The drone - really, she was a nice enough person, he supposed - hurried over to check on him, scooping up a trash can along the way. “Are you okay?”
He pressed both arms against his middle as he leaned forward, willing the nausea down. How the hell did people live with this shit when it was common?
And then he smelled it. A soft, cidery scent, crisp apples and notes of cinnamon, warm, inviting, welcoming. And he felt the symptoms start to dial back, calm, recede entirely. Suddenly, he felt great.
Then he heard a deep, delicious voice call out, “Something’s wrong, I can feel it -“
And then he was standing in the doorway, the HR drone giving him a dirty look. “He hasn’t signed yet -“
“I don’t care.” Said Captain Frigging America.
He tried to ignore the gooey feeling in his veins as he looked up at the absolutely beautiful man standing there, in a button-down left open at the throat, and comfortably loose khakis with a brown leather belt. His sleeves were rolled up, revealing golden arms corded with solid muscle, his hands stuffed in the generous pockets of the slacks.
But it was the expression on his face that was truly arresting. He was looking at Bucky, a worry furrow creased between his brows, his luminous blue eyes focused entirely on Bucky. Bucky had never had anyone look at him quite that way, like he was simultaneously the most important person in the world, and the most delectable snack.
So much for those fantasies about hunting down the creep responsible for Bucky’s condition. It’s not like anyone would forgive him for killing a national icon.
And damn, he was definitely having second thoughts as Rogers suddenly started moving from the door to where Bucky sat. HR lady tried to stand in his way, but the display of controlled power as he just glared her down was definitely hotter than it had any right being.
And when that attention was on him up close and personal, Bucky could feel the tendrils of a new kind of lust stirring. He was also very much aware that the tampon was going to need replacing soon. ‘Cos damn, he was producing a lot of that slick stuff.
“Are you okay?” the Captain asked suddenly. “I could feel -“
“Better now. Cramps and ... stuff. Pain. But it stopped when you came into the room. You smell -“
“Sorry, I’m not used to this any more than you are -“
“No, I was gonna say amazing, but what the fuck am I doing here? What’s this all about,” he gestured toward the brick-like NDA.
“You need to sign that before there’s another word exchanged,” HR drone-lady demanded, and even Cap flinched at her tone.
“Would you mind?”
“Do I get a cookie?”
“You have a whole box of pastries from the Stark pastry chef,” she snapped at him, her eyebrow angrily - seriously, an angry eyebrow - arching toward the untouched box.
A smile quirked at the corner of Cap’s mouth, and he lifted his eyebrow and glanced down at the brick. “It would be helpful. To us both.”
Bucky shrugged then, and opened book, found the signature tabby-thing, and scrawled his name and dated. “Happy?”
“Very. Now the two of you - behave yourselves,” she announced as she collected the book, hugging it to her chest, and hightailed it outta Dodge, pulling the door closed behind her.
Cap was now only a few feet away from Bucky, and that delicious mulled cider scent was even stronger. But not overbearing, just really, really delicious. And Bucky was craving apple cider donuts in a big, big way. He opened the pastry box and looked for something with apple in it ... ooh, apple croissant. That would do.
“Would you mind?” Cap asked then, and Bucky snapped his attention back to him.
“If I sat?”
Bucky waved magnanimously while he took a big, juicy bite of the croissant, marveling at the gentle crunch of the sweet apple as the flavor bloomed across his tongue ...
And what the actual fuck? Bucky liked to eat, but he never waxed rhapsodic about food in his head. He put the croissant down and looked at Cap, sitting about six feet away across the table from him, his hands clasped in front of him on the table surface, and pressed his own lips together in irritation at himself.
Cap was really pretty hot in person. Like super hot. And he was starting to look kind of purple like he was going to combust. His eyes were kind of ... dark, too. Bucky frowned. He’d swear Cap’s eyes were a really bright, clear blue, but now they looked ... oh.
Bucky looked more closely, and realized those hands that were clasped had knuckles that were practically white from the pressure of holding them still.
Just out of curiosity - for science of course - Bucky wheeled his chair out so he could look at Cap straight on. Those khakis were loose for a reason. There was some distinct and intriguing activity down around the crotch.
Bucky would be lying if he claimed to be completely disinterested. I mean ... this was Captain Fucking America. Who was straight, right? So this was maybe not so great for him, either.
Bucky realized that Cap was exercising iron control over his version of the unpleasant condition. Bucky felt a vicious kind of satisfaction at that, followed by a twinge of guilt and a stab of pity.
“What do you want from me?” he finally asked, rolling backward to reclaim his pastry.
“I want you to be safe. I’m sorry about ... all this. It was a shock to me. I can’t imagine -“
“Yeah, well, I thought I was here for a job interview. The health insurance would be nice considering I spent three days in the hospital over this. And now I gotta take this nasty shit that basically kills my libido so it doesn’t happen again. All cause a’you.”
“I’ll take care of the medical bills. And I’m sorry about the drug. That’s not fair to you. Bruce - Dr. Banner - is already working on something better. In fact, he’s asked that you swing by after we’re ... after we’re done. You thought this was a job interview?”
“Yeah. I’ve been trying to get an interview to work here for over two years. I thought finally, I broke through the HR wall. But,” he shrugged.
“Excuse me a minute,” Cap said then, standing and pulling out his StarkPhone. “Wait, I haven’t even introduced myself -“
“I know who you are. You’re Captain America.”
Cap’s face kind of crumpled then, a deep, pained disappointment, and Bucky knew he’d said something wrong, something hurtful.
And when Cap corrected him, he got a sense of what it was. “Actually, it’s Steve. Just Steve Rogers. I’m not ... I don’t want to be ... I mean ... look, your resume. The name it’s under, and the kind of job you were looking for?”
“James Buchanan Barnes, PhD. Development. My theoretical work has been in cybernetics and human interface. I’ve always wanted to develop smart prosthetics for people with missing or damaged limbs, give people some freedom -“
“Wow,” Cap - Steve - breathed then, the lines around his eyes crinkling with something that looked like fondness. “Okay, then. Let me make a call. I’ll be right back. Can I get you anything?”
Bucky waved at the box of pastries, his half-eaten croissant, and the still very generous, very delicious coffee drink he’d been nursing. Steve blushed then, shaking his head like he should’ve noticed all the goodies already at Bucky’s disposal. He really was kind of cute, like a mastiff and a Golden Retriever puppy all rolled into one, stumbling over his big feet as he tried to be endearing and cute, and Bucky was starting to think this alpha omega shit was messing with his head. But the sweet smile that Steve gave him as he exited the conference room made him wonder if Steve wasn’t also being affected. But he was Captain America, he was immune, right?
Bucky looked up from his third pastry to see Actual Tony Stark standing in the doorway.
“Tony. You’re a hard man to find.”
“I’ve been stuck here for about two hours, haven’t gone anywhere -“
“I mean in general. I followed your work at MIT, and was hoping to recruit you, but you went to work for Hammer instead. Why, I wondered, would such an incredible mind go low rent? And before I could snag you again, you went to work for another of the pretenders. And another. And then you fell off the map.”
“I couldn’t get a job in the field because Hammer blackballed me. I submitted a resume here two years ago, and haven’t been able to get an interview -“
“Yes. That broken system will be fixed, and the perpetrators dealt with. Tout suite and forsooth. Now, tell me you’re really who I think you are.”
“I’m James Buchanan Barnes -“
“No, your virtual self. You write a blog, don’t you.”
“I knew it. Weird name, but I love that blog.”
“My friends and family call me Bucky. It was a play on Fuller.”
“Perfect. I’m giving you 57.”
“Yeah. And let’s start at 250, okay?”
“I, uh -“
“Okay, a mill. You’re worth it. A mind like yours - we’re gonna have so much fun. You, me, Helen Cho, Brucie. We have the best toys. And we’ll make more, better toys!”
“I don’t understand.”
“What don’t you understand?”
“What’s 57, and what’s a mill?”
“Fifty-seven is the floor for your lab. A mill is the million a year salary you’re going to start with. Now you ended up in the hospital because of this thing - that’s covered, any expenses, just hand them to Pep. Start immediately if that works for you. There’s a furnished apartment on the level - you can move in, or just use it when you feel the need to stay over. I’m guessing you’re like me, living on caffeine, brain won’t shut up. Once you’re in the zone, there’s no stopping you. Am I right?”
Bucky could only nod. He was so right. Bucky surreptitiously pinched his thigh, expecting to wake suddenly, only to find it actually hurt, and Tony Stark was still zipping around the room now, looking like somebody just told him it was Christmas, his birthday, and the Fourth of July, all at once.
Then a cold sense of dread pooled in his stomach. “Is this because of the thing with Captain America, with Steve?”
“You mean, am I giving you the world and the money to enjoy it and expecting you to work your ass off creating miracles, just because you and Spangles triggered some kind of backward biological response in each other?”
“No. I’m giving you this opportunity because your mind, your imagination, your work deserve it. I’m not kidding about following you at MIT. I’m a grad, you know. I try to keep my eye out for up and coming talent. You just went crosswise from me. And I am serious about being a fan of the blog. I am really looking forward to brainstorming with you. In fact, Steve is going to regret telling me about the HR fuck-up, because he’s probably never going to get to see you again because we’re going to have so much fun together.”
After Tony left, Steve came back into the conference room, looking a little sheepish. It was actually a good look on him. He took his seat again, and asked if Bucky was okay.
“Thanks,” Bucky said.
“All I had to do was tell him who you are. He’d mentioned something about your name being familiar yesterday, but it wasn’t until I gave him the information you gave me that it clicked for him. The rest is on Tony. Apparently you’re quite the ‘get’ as far as he’s concerned.”
“You’re gonna give me a big head. So apparently you don’t have to worry about covering any of my medical expenses - he said he would.”
“He takes employee healthcare very seriously. SI has probably the best healthcare plan in the world, with its own medical units and personnel available in every office, if people want to use them.”
“So they work harder?”
“So they have the convenience and the care. Pepper organizes it, but it’s one of Tony’s passions. He’s really excited about seeing where your works goes. Me, too. Smart prosthetics, manufactured at an affordable price ... it could change a lot of lives for the better.”
Bucky sat there looking at Steve, at the soft, proud smile that touched his eyes. Back to their normal color, they were really beautiful eyes. But he could already see the flicker of darkness in his pupils as they grew fractionally larger.
It was heady, having that kind of effect on someone like Captain America. On Steve Rogers, who was beautiful in his own way. But this biology stuff wasn’t real. He was straight, right? The whole thing with Peggy Carter was the subject of a mini-series back when he was a kid. So there really wasn’t any real hope for a happy ending for Bucky. Right?
“How about suppressing you so you don’t trigger me?”
He shrugged. “Serum. Burns through everything. I can’t even take pain killers - they last a few minutes, if that, and then nothing.”
“Wow. Um, that sucks. I didn’t know that.”
“Little known trivia. Serum makes me heal, but it makes me feel every damned pain in the meantime.”
“Shit. That’s ... that’s rough. But thanks. For being willing to take care of the bills. For putting me in touch with Tony. That’s decent of you.”
“It’s the least I can do. You’re my ...”
“I was going to say you’re my mate, but you’re really not. I mean, it’s just biology, isn’t it? Something modern medicine can get rid of.”
“Your mate? What, like a boyfriend?”
“More like destiny. The perfect person for me, designed by nature.”
“Yeah, but Captain America’s not gay.”
“No? You know that for sure?”
Bucky paused to really look at him then - the tension, the iron control. The bulge in his very nice trousers.
“I guess I am. Maybe demi. I don’t know. I thought for a long time I was broken. And then when I came out of the ice, I learned more. I came to believe I was ace. But now ... now I think I’ve just been waiting for the right partner.”
“And you think that’s me?”
“I know it.”
“And if I say no?”
“I’ll respect that. You’ll never see me again.”
“But I’ll still have to take those damned pills. Because you’re out there.”
“No, Bruce is going to make something better. I won’t allow you to suffer because of me.“
“And I’m going to be working here. In this building. You live here, right?”
“Yeah. But I can stay out of your way. I mean, JARVIS can warn me where not to go. I promise you, if you don’t want anything to do with me, I will respect that.”
Bucky was thoughtful, watching Steve closely. “It affects you. This thing between us.”
“I’ve never had much of a sex drive. When I was young, before the serum, I figured it was because of all the shit that was wrong with me. Just no room for it, you know? And then after the serum, the big wigs had such plans for me - super aggressive alpha in the field, babymaker in my off hours. But I wasn’t,” he shrugged, and Bucky could see a flash of pain there, of maybe ... shame? And he realized that this beautiful man had been made to feel less than because he hadn’t conformed to the gender norms of his time. Bucky felt a sudden and surprising wave of affection for Steve Rogers, for what he’d been through, for his honesty, and for his kindness.
“They had no right to treat you like that,” Bucky said softly, and Steve’s blue eyes snapped up and bore directly into his soul. Bucky could feel something like fire catch and flare up within him. Like ... recognition. Like ... maybe Steve was Bucky’s right partner, too. But that couldn’t be ... how ...?
“That’s kind of you to say,” Steve was saying. “I understand more now, I recognize that I was being judged by a system that didn’t take into account people like me. I’ve been more ... accepting, I guess, of myself, since I woke up in this century and I’ve had access to more information. I figured I was ace, and it felt good to have a name for it, a framework. I wasn’t broken, I was just different, you know?” he asked, a hopeful lilt to his voice. Bucky had no choice but to nod assent, captivated by this incredible man’s voyage of discovery.
“But since ... since we found each other doesn’t sound right, but since we came in ... proximity, I guess. Since then, I’ve been ... well, let’s just say I’m learning what my right hand can do. And I kinda like it.”
The combination of innocent joy and sly pleasure was oddly hot. This was a man just beginning to understand his sexuality, and that was doing things to Bucky. Unexpected things.
But Steve was waiting for an answer, a response. A gift of Bucky’s reality, maybe.
“Yeah. I’m learning some stuff about my body I didn’t really want to know. I mean, I never had any reason to think I might have omega secondary gender stuff. It’s weird. I don’t have a frame of reference about something that was more common in your time, so I get it. Feeling like I don’t fit. But I guess there’s potential. I mean, I’d never run out of lube.”
That punched a laugh out of Steve, and he clapped his hand over his mouth to stifle the loud bark. “Well, there is that.”
“I can deal,” Steve said then, and Bucky realized it was an offering, a promise that Steve could cope with however this thing affected him, and not ask anything of Bucky. A hall pass, a get out of jail free card. If he wanted to take advantage of it.
Bucky took a moment to drink from his mug; the coffee was cold now, but it was still tasty. Then he took another bite from his last pastry, chewing slowly while he turned over the possibilities.
In just a few short days, his entire life had changed. He was facing an anachronistic biological issue, he had the job of his dreams, he could move into an apartment on the 57th floor of the coolest building in the world, and there was a beautiful man sitting across from him looking at him like he held the answer to life, the universe, and everything.
He’d be lying if he said he wasn’t intrigued. And maybe a little scared.
“Yeah, we could both deal,” he said.
“Yes.” A single word that carried resignation, pain, and loneliness. Bucky recognized those feelings in himself, too. Like maybe he’d been on hold waiting for his right partner. Like maybe this wasn’t the most suckworthy thing to ever happen to him. Like maybe ...
“Or ... we could try it out.”
“We could try. You’re a good looking guy, totally my type. And you’re not as much of an asshole as I assumed. And I already know I like, well, you know,” he nodded toward Steve’s straining crotch. “So ... yeah. Maybe we give this a shot.”
Steve didn’t answer, just stared open-mouthed at Bucky with a glazed, wide-eyed look, pink rising on his really pretty cute cheeks. When that dragged on for longer than a minute, Bucky waved his hand in front of Steve’s incredible blue eyes. When that evoked no response, he shrugged, walked over to the door, opened it, and called out, “A little help here? I think I broke Captain America!”
END (for now)