A magic creatures AU - About 3k, watch for the cut!
Late growth spurt, the doctor had said without looking up from his tablet. Steve had been sitting on the exam table, paper bunched up under his thighs, four inches of ankle sticking out of his pants. At 22, he’d expected to be five-foot-nothing, one-hundred-nothing pounds for the rest of his life. When he’d started noticing that his pants seemed short, he’d blamed Bucky for ruining a load of laundry – it wouldn’t have been the first time.
“Late growth spurt,” Steve muttered under his breath as he tried on a new pair of pants. It was the fourth pair of jeans he’d had to buy in the last three months, and he was getting tired of spending his wages on clothing. He hadn’t had to regularly buy new clothing since middle school, and until this late growth spurt, he’d had the same pair of comfortable (slightly careworn) jeans since the first day of ninth grade.
“Steve! C’mon. How long does it take to button a pair of jeans?”
“I’m sure you hold the record, Buck,” Steve called back. He tugged on the waistband of the pants, picked up his knees, and then folded forward to grab his toes. “I think these are too small,” he said, nudging the door open with his hip.
Bucky was sprawled in the folding chair set against the wall, his legs taking up most of the narrow walkway between the changing rooms. One of his hands dangled between his legs, and the other was propped up on his thigh with his phone angled up, thumb flicking over the screen. He looked like an edgy magazine ad with his hair pulled up in a messy bun, his thin button-up shirt rucked up to show a peak of a tattoo on his hip. The woman at the counter kept tossing him speculative looks.
“Really?” Steve asked with his lips pursed, hands automatically landing on his hips.
Bucky smirked and ran his tongue over his lower lip as he straightened up. He gave Steve a speculative look. “Are you doing squats in your sleep or something?”
Steve threw his hands in the air. “Yes, Bucky. I am getting up in the middle of the night and sleep-squating. That’s a perfect explanation.”
“Hey, don’t bite my head off, I’m not the one who’s grown eight inches and put on thirty pounds in the last three months.” He stood up and gave Steve a thorough once-over. “You’re either going to have start working out, or stop biking to work. You’re getting all…” He made a vague gesture with his hands. “Pear-shaped.”
“Thanks,” Steve said.
Bucky lifted his hands. “Just making an observation.” He twirled one finger. “Turn around.”
Steve obligingly turned a quick circle. “They’re too tight.”
“I don’t know, they make your ass look a little amazing. Just an observation,” he hurried to add.
“I don’t need a pair of jeans that make my ass look good, Bucky,” Steve huffed. “I need a pair of jeans that I’m not going to grow out of in two weeks!” He shoved the changing room door open and sucked in a breath to get the jeans unbuttoned. “I think I’m just going to buy something that I have to roll up at the hem.”
“Please don’t do that,” Bucky pleaded. “Please, Steve, you’re twenty-two, not seven.”
“I can’t keep buying pants every two weeks, Bucky.” He struggled out of the jeans, listening to Bucky migrate from the changing room to talk to the lady at the counter. He ignored the murmur of conversation and pulled out the longest pair of jeans in the pile and tugged them on quickly. They were loose on the hips, and about five inches too long, but hopefully they would last him more than a couple weeks.
He struggled back into his own too-tight, too-short pants and scooped the rest up. Bucky was leaning against the counter on both elbows, looking up at the slender girl folding shirts across from him. She blushed prettily and ducked her head down, smiling at whatever story Bucky was spinning for her as she tucked a long lock of silky black hair behind her ear. When she noticed Steve, she jumped slightly, her tails flaring up behind her. Steve blinked – he’d mistaken the silver and white tails for being part of her skirt.
“Sorry,” she said, brushing her hands down her hips. Her tails fell back down, and she took a moment to adjust them. Nine, he realized, as the fur calmed down and they once again blended into her skirt.
“Kitsune?” Bucky guessed, giving her an even brighter smile.
She flashed a glare at him.
“Jiuweihu,” Steve corrected for him, setting the stack of discards on the counter and offering a smile. She smiled again, giving Bucky a sideways glance as she pulled the stack of denim toward her. “I’ll just be keeping this one,” he explained, holding up the folded pair of dark jeans.
“Have a nice day,” she said sweetly, her hair briefly lifting up as her ears twitched beneath.
“Thank you,” Steve replied, snagging Bucky by one arm and dragging him away before he could say anything else.
“How did you know she was a Jiuweihu and not a Kitsune? They’re the same thing!” Bucky hissed as they turned the corner through the racks of clothing and into the wide aisle.
Steve shrugged and nudged Bucky toward a cashier, bypassing an end cap display of cologne and pheromone sprays. If Bucky tried to spray him with ‘Sex Demon’ one more time, Steve would plant a fist in his gut. “Her tails fall at her hips like a skirt. A kitsune’s all bunch around at the back like a bustle.”
“I don’t know what’s more disturbing,” Bucky mused, “That you know what a bustle is, or that I know what a bustle is.”
Steve snorted. “You’re the one who dragged me into that theater group, remember? Chasing after Leda?”
Bucky sighed wistfully. “Leda the lovely Spartoi. She would have murdered me, but gods, she was hot. Art history major, and the only reason I passed math that semester.”
“I remember,” Steve assured him.
While they waited in line, Bucky leafed through a magazine and Steve did his best not to fidget. His joints had started to ache constantly since the growth spurt had started, and standing still just made them burn. He took a few deep breaths and tried to settle his weight so he wasn’t putting as much pressure on his knees.
Bucky elbowed him gently. “You okay?”
“I’m not the scrawny kid who gets sick at every stray breeze, Bucky,” Steve snapped. When Bucky just raised an eyebrow, Steve let his breath out. He shuffled forward a few steps as the sylph in front of him moved to the checkout. “I’m sorry. I’ve been on edge today.”
“Need some Tylenol?” Bucky asked without responding to Steve’s partial lie.
Steve had no doubt that Bucky was still carrying a packet of painkillers. When they were younger, Bucky’s backpack had been stuffed with a first aid kit that was specialized to Steve. Even though he’d stopped carrying around a backpack, he still had bandages and paper packets of pills squeezed into his too-tight pockets.
“I’m fine, just…” Steve rolled his eyes. “Growing pains.”
Bucky snickered at him and Steve twisted to punch him in the shoulder.
“Keep laughing,” Steve said, “But I’m going to be taller than you at this rate.”
Bucky blinked at him, mouth going soft as his eyes ran up Steve’s frame. Bucky was a solid 6’2” but Steve wasn’t far from catching up. Considering how painful the first eight inches had been, he was hoping that he didn’t have another seven to go. Although being able to say because I’m taller’n you, that’s why even once would almost be worth it.
The sylph gathered up her bags in her wispy arms and drifted away, the air stirring around the vague notion of her feet as she moved. Steve stepped up to the cashier, leaving Bucky to gape at his back.
Everything was hazy, battling between too hot and too cold. Steve struggled to swallow, but his throat was tight, and dry, and his tongue felt swollen. His feet were cold, but his chest and neck were on fire. His bones felt like they were being squeezed, brittle and ready to snap, and no position was comfortable. He twisted in the bed and gasped, his right hip protesting loudly to the weight, aftershocks rippling down to his knees and up his spine.
A cool hand slid down his face and there was a scent, something warm and spicy and inviting. He turned toward that scent, inviting the cool hand to migrate to his neck, fingers in his hair. The touch soothed the ache in his bones, but just made his throat tighter. He reached out for the body settling next to him on the bed, ignoring the noises the body made. Something was off, and he was thinking… he was thinking too slowly, but all he wanted was the cool skin and spicywarminviting scent next to him.
Steve reached up, slinging a hand around the body’s neck, pulling it down. The room was dark, but Steve could see, could feel, a pair of liquid brown eyes locking into his. A wash of soothing cold slid down his spine, pooling low in his gut, bringing sweet relief to his aching hips and knees. The body released a shuddery breath, and Steve breathed it in, moist air tinted with peppermint and the faintest trace of cloves. He pulled and the body moved down beside him, stretching out so its skin was against Steve’s, everywhere except across the hips where cloth was keeping Steve from what he needed. He reached down to pull it away and the body moved to let him, lifting away from the bed so Steve could draw the fabric away.
Steve set his lips to the body’s chest, smooth and gently rounded with muscle, the tiny peak of a nipple, a spattering of hair. The smell was stronger against the skin, rich and heady enough to make his head swim. He sank his teeth into the muscle.
His hand skated down the body’s ribs, over a hip, thumb dipping down into the hollow. His thumb brushed through a wiry thatch of hair. He let the back of his knuckles draw over a thigh, tangled briefly in the cloth, and pushed it further away.
Steve frowned and pulled away. The body was a dark shadow against the darkness of his room, familiar lines. The voice was familiar.
The body arched against him, making a pleading, whining sound, but repeated, “Stop. Steve.”
Reality crashed against him and he threw himself out of the bed, suddenly iced over. He fell to the floor and fetched up against the wall. “Bucky?”
Bucky didn’t answer. He stayed on the bed, breathing hard, moving in small jerks and hitches. Steve pressed himself into the corner, shuddering hard and feeling nauseous. The room was somehow alive with sparks, Bucky’s scent thick and still tugging at him. If he moved away from the wall, he was going to put his hands back on Bucky’s body, and Bucky had told him stop, and what the hell was Steve doing?
“Bucky, please say something.”
“What the fuck, Steve?” Bucky breathed after a terrifying long pause. He swallowed hard, the sound loud in the stillness of the room. “What… Jesus, I thought you were having a fuckin’ nightmare. Am I even awake?” The last he directed to himself, and Steve saw the silhouette of Bucky’s arms lifting above him like he was trying to look at his hands.
“I’m sorry,” Steve said. He wrapped his arms around himself and shivered against the wall. The adrenaline had worn off and he was hot all over, his joints throbbing, his throat aching. “I’m sorry, I don’t know… I don’t know what…”
Bucky shifted around on the bed, drawing his boxers back and then pushing himself into a seated position. Steve wished he would stand up – having him on the bed, it was doing strange things to him. His fingers itched to touch, and he could… he could feel his fingerprints throbbing. He shivered and ducked his head down to hide in his forearms.
“Steve… that felt like being Seduced. Like… an incubus.”
Among all the hazy horror, Steve managed to snarl, “How do you know what Seduction feels like?”
“Wow, territorial much?” Bucky asked, his voice calmed down to something normal, amused even. “You jealous of my one-night with a succubus?”
Steve felt a deep vibration in his chest and it took several seconds to realize that he was growling. The realization made him stop. He put a hand up to his throat. “This can’t be happening.”
“Well… your dad was… wasn’t he?”
The ice in his stomach turned to steam and filled up his chest. “I passed puberty without manifesting!” Steve snapped. He pressed a hand to his chest and closed his eyes hard, trying to block out the outline of his best friend’s body – God, he’d thought of Bucky as ‘a body’ – and the clawing want urging him to get up. His throat was tight and if he could just touch, just for a minute…
“Okay, so you’re a late bloomer. Not like we didn’t already know that. We’ll make an appointment with the clinic tomorrow and get you figured out. Alright?” Bucky’s voice sounded cautious, and he paused for a long minute before asking, “Are you… alright?”
No, Steve thought desperately. He was not alright – he hurt and his throat was going to tear open if he swallowed too hard. It wasn’t like he’d never been in pain before, had never been sick before, had never told Bucky that he was fine when he wasn’t. He opened his mouth to tell Bucky that he was fine, but what he said was, “No.”
“Okay,” Bucky said slowly. “What do you… do you need me to…?”
“No,” Steve hissed, remembering that mindlessly taking, thinking of Bucky as only a body. “No. I just need some water. Maybe a bath.”
Bucky spun out of the bed. “Water, right. Incubi like water. Cold,” he said to himself, voice floating back from the hallway, obviously on a mission.
Steve felt a wave of nausea sweep over him at the word – incubi, gods – and he buried his face against his arms to count his breaths while Bucky clattered around in the kitchen. He’d never known his father, and had been not-so-secretly pleased to take after his human mother. Manifesting had always been his worst nightmare, and he’d thought he’d escaped it when he made it out of puberty still human.
The clatter of Bucky’s footsteps made Steve tense automatically. His scent filled the room again, warm and alive, and it made Steve’s throat burn with want. The glass made a solid thump when Bucky sat it down beside him. Steve shuffled further back into his corner, clutching at his biceps to stop himself from reaching for his friend.
“Stevie, hey… don’t be like that. This is great, right? You’re gonna be the best wingman now.”
“Not the time, Bucky,” Steve growled.
“Right,” Bucky agreed. He nudged the glass closer to Steve. “There’s ice in it,” he said invitingly.
Steve swallowed reflexively and craned his neck to look under his arm at the glass, dripping onto the wooden floor. He uncurled enough to grab the glass and took an exploratory sip. Before he knew it, the glass was empty and he was sucking greedily on the ice. There was another thump, and Steve glanced down to see that Bucky had brought him a new glass of ice water. He exchanged the empty glass for the fresh one, faintly aware of Bucky standing, the last few chips of ice in the glass rattling around.
When he came back, he had a plastic pitcher in hand. Steve mutely held the empty glass out, and Bucky refilled it. They repeated the process three more times until Steve felt water-logged and pleasantly cool all the way through. He felt his back unknot and relaxed slowly against the wall, finally feeling more settled.
“You want me to run a bath for you?” Bucky asked, setting the pitcher down next to him.
Steve shook his head. “No, I can do it. Don’t!” he hissed when Bucky reached for his shoulder.
Bucky flinched and pulled back sharply. “Right. Sorry.” He drew in a deep breath and then let it go, shuffling his weight around on the floor. He had to be cold in just his boxers, but he stayed where he was for several tense moments longer. “I’ll get up in the morning and schedule an appointment with the clinic.”
The Creature Clinic, Steve thought snidely. It was officially The Clinic for the Faeborn, but he remembered walking past it every day on the way home from school, and the kids snickering monsters and creatures!
“Alright,” Steve said. His head bobbed in acceptance more than agreement. “Alright.”
Bucky shifted again like he wanted to reach out to Steve, but his hand fell and he pushed himself up to his feet instead. “Get some sleep. It’s going to be fine.”
Steve listened to Bucky’s footsteps on the creaky old floorboards as he crossed the short hallway to his bedroom. He waited, but Bucky’s door didn’t close. A moment later, he heard the thud and squeak of Bucky’s weight hitting his bed. He could still feel Bucky’s heartbeat against his skin, and he wasn’t completely sure that it was an illusion.