When Bucky fuzzily regains consciousness—and he’s used to this experience so the disorientation’s almost familiar—he’s not in a hospital, thank God. One of the few things he said to Steve when he first put his head down in Steve’s apartment was that he didn’t want to wake up in any hospitals ever again. No medical equipment or drips or any of that unless it was life-saving necessary.
Steve gave his word and stuck to it, Bucky thinks fondly, and that’s why Bucky's in their room in their “apartment” (that they barely visit) in Avengers Tower. Probably Bruce is just a floor away.
And Steve is right here, napping, with his head on his arm on Bucky’s bed. No visible hurts to Steve’s arm or his dear idiot face, Bucky notes with relief, and Steve’s sleeping comfortably; the fight must have ended soon after Bucky went down, or else the shield just did its job and protected Captain America. Bucky ought to let Steve sleep, but he can’t help himself—it helps to hear Steve’s voice, see the look in his eyes—so he gives Steve’s arm a nudge. Steve wakes up fast, startling like a cat and then immediately frowning in worry at Bucky.
“I’m fine, buddy,” Bucky says—hoarsely—and squeezes Steve's fingers gently in reassurance. It’s pretty much true, though; just one more nap and the super-serum will take care of the aches he’s feeling now.
Steve frowns at Bucky anyway, eyes big with concern, and Bucky twines his hand with Steve’s before he drops off again.
When Bucky wakes up again, Steve is clattering around in the apartment’s fancy kitchen. Bucky peels himself out of bed, considers washing his face, and then instead shuffles down the hallway to see what Steve’s doing. As it turns out, Steve is banging cupboard doors around, looking for—
“Paprika?” Steve says, straightening up and turning around like he’s been caught picking pockets. “Wanted to make you those eggs you like.”
“Yeah, you probably put it on some weird shelf,” Bucky says, rubbing his face. Steve always gets slightly muddled when he’s cooking in their Stark™ Apartment without his favorite spice rack. So Bucky loops his arm around Steve’s waist and roots around among the cans of stuff in the cupboard above the sink. See? Multitasking.
It’s kind of a victory when he finds the paprika behind some jars of olives. He tosses it to Steve, only to be met with some kind of reproving look when Steve grabs at it two-handed. “What?” Bucky says.
Steve keeps his eye on Bucky as he slowly reaches into the fridge and takes out a carton of eggs.
“What?” Bucky says again. He looks down at himself. No, wearing clothes and everything, injuries all gone. Second check: Steve not hurt either. Bucky looks behind him. No Natasha laughing at him from the doorway.
Steve just stares Bucky down oddly until Steve finally turns and starts cracking eggs into a pan.
Bucky makes the hand signal that means “are we bugged?”
“No, we’re fine,” Steve says, frowning again. “Apart from Stark probably always spying on us. Lemme finish this. Gotta make some toast.”
Now Bucky’s starting to feel a little unsettled, but all the same he trusts Steve when he says things are fine. So that means it’s a personal thing, not a world-domination-HYDRA class of thing.
Bucky sits on the couch and watches Steve’s back move as Steve stirs his eggs and arranges his meal awkwardly on a plate to deliver to Bucky, before returning with his own and sitting next to Bucky, feet propped up on the coffee table in a clear and laudable display of disrespect for Stark’s furnishings. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to hold hands while eating eggs from a plate, or else this might be the definition of happiness. However, the food is fucking amazing, and Bucky says so.
“You sure you’re feeling all right?” Steve says, raising an eyebrow.
“Look,” Bucky says. “Are you gonna stop giving me the hairy eyeball, or just tell me what the problem is?”
All Steve says is, “You’re such an idiot.” He brushes some of Bucky’s hair off his forehead. “I’m gonna call Banner up to check you for a concussion.”
“Can’t get concussions,” Bucky points out, but that doesn’t stop Steve from actually following through on his word.
An hour later, after lots of scans involving colored light and apparently nothing else, Banner and Stark’s creepy computer together proclaim Bucky totally healthy (or at least at his normal level of health, including all the normal issues with the arm and everything). So far, so good, but then Banner seems to have caught the hairy eyeball from Steve. He looks at Bucky, then at Steve, then back to Bucky. There’s actually some kind of conversation held only in looks that’s going on between Banner and Steve.
“Seriously, what,” Bucky says. He has checked in reflective surfaces; there is not anything drawn on his face.
“Uhm. I’m gonna head out, but if you need anything, you know. Let me know,” Banner says.
“Glad you don’t have a concussion,” Steve says, leaning to kiss Bucky on the forehead, and then Bucky forgets all about the weird thing for a while. As evening closes in, Bucky starts flipping through a book called AMERICA: THE BOOK that Sam got him for his birthday while Steve sits in his big chair and does his Reddit AMA thing that people have apparently been so excited for, giving a running dry commentary on all the terrible (and touching. And terrible) questions that the people of the world have for him.
“Dear Cap, what is your ideal woman like?” Steve reads.
“Dear Cap, what was it like living in a time before computers.” Strangled groan.
“Dear Cap, what is your viewpoint on—it was a TV show.” Steve sighs. “Just a TV show. It was fine.”
At one point, Sam texts Bucky: How's Steve doing?
He is an expert on back alley fights so he is great on the internet, Bucky says.
Oh the reddit thing? Oh man, Sam texts.
Then, a minute later: So you guys are just sitting at home, having a night in and stuff.
Yeah, I am actually even reading a book a bit. You wanna come over? Bucky offers. It’s kind of amazing that Sam actually lives in New York now. He is a much more fun casual friend than Natasha. For one, he has much better movie recommendations.
What? Sam says. No I’m good. Have fun.
“Dear Cap,” Steve says, “have you ever—ha, they’re trying to shock me.”
How Steve didn’t think this would immediately result in Bucky trying to see his laptop screen, Bucky will never know.
Fortunately, the AMA ends without incident. Bucky brushes his teeth quickly and leaves Steve to fiddle around turning lights out in the apartment and plugging his phone in before he finally joins Bucky in bed, all cold hands and minty breath.
“You’re amazing, Bucky, you know that,” Steve says, letting Bucky roll over and wrap his arms around him, like always. Bucky’s heard that other people like to be the little spoon in this scenario, but personally, he’s always liked knowing that he’s got Steve in his arms. He just wishes he’d been able to do it before when—
“Holy shit,” Bucky says into Steve’s hair. “What the fuck.”
He’s always wished he’d been able to hold Steve like this when Steve was small. Except right now his arm is going right round Steve’s ribs and—
Steve just pats Bucky's arm. "Yep," he says.
“What the hell?” Bucky says. It’s hard to express his feelings like this to the top of Steve’s head, but he’s too comfortable to let Steve go and sit up.
“It’s some nanovirus that’s counteracting the serum. Banner says the serum’s already winning out and the effect’ll start reversing by tomorrow,” Steve says, all blasé.
“Oh, sure, sounds fine,” Bucky says even more indignantly, holding Steve tighter. “You’re definitely gonna tell this story to all our friends, aren’t you? Wait, I’m gonna put the light on so I can look at you properly.”
“If you put the light on I’ll kick you,” Steve says serenely, snug under the blankets and against Bucky’s chest. “Sam already told everyone.”
“I hate you so much,” Bucky whispers, leaving a kiss on Steve’s ear. And Steve’s temple. And . . .
“Not my fault,” Steve says, finally turning over so that Bucky can see, even in the darkness, the faint outline of his face. His thin face, his big eyebrows and long eyelashes, his lovely crooked nose and the freckle on his cheek that’s never changed. “I’m gonna tell this story to every single person I know. Even told it to the people on Reddit tonight. That you didn’t notice the difference.” His hand—so much smaller—presses to Bucky's cheek.
“Yeah, well,” Bucky says. In truth, he never has.