The big clock over the nurse station marked 3:14 AM.
One minute to go , Bucky thought with dread, dropping his forehead against the handle of his mop and starting a countdown from sixty backward, waiting for the annoying beep he knew was to come soon.
Taking on the night shift was usually uneventful: there were no visitors between 8 pm and 10 am, the patients were under blissful drug-induced sleep and whatever overworked medical staff wasn’t tending to a patient was trying to catch some shut-eye.
More importantly, there was no one around to stare at the piece of metal sticking out of his left sleeve, and no strangers trying to interact with him with condescending sympathy. If he had to never see the sunlight ever again to keep it that way, so be it.
(That was at least thirty percent of the reason why he was working the night shift and not stuck on a desk job: he got antsy with the attention. But he would be perfectly good working on IT if the other seventy percent of the reason, a devil incarnated in the form of Doctor Pierce, didn’t have it out for Bucky and Steve’s heads. It was already hard enough trying to keep his huge bundle of righteous rage of a best friend out of trouble without adding more trouble to the pile himself, and they needed the money to pay for his medical bills and Steve’s tuition).
Point being, the night shift was peaceful and quiet , and Bucky liked it that way.
Too bad the patient in room 154 didn't get the memo and took it upon himself to spoil his night by pressing the damn nurse call button every fifteen minutes since midnight .
Room 154 was actually a “celebrity” room. The guy was said to have saved a bus full of children by putting his car on the way of a truck that would have otherwise hit the bus. The car was totaled, the guy had broken several bones, but the children were safe. Dude was a hero in the media.
But in the hospital? He was a demanding pest!
The nurses checked on the patient exactly once before deciding the best course of action was to ignore every call from that room (wasn’t that against the law or something?). They were exposed enough to that beeping to have become desensitized - most health workers had some form of alarm fatigue, so it was not hard for them to ignore the urgency of the beeping.
But Room 154 seemed to have made it his life mission to out-beep their insensitivity, and while that would have worked during the day shift, the night staff had no qualms about leaving the station to take a nap somewhere else. Which left no one but Bucky to suffer on the clock: every fifteen minutes the alarm would disturb his peaceful night, and Bucky would spend the interval between alarms plotting Room 154’s demise and curbing down his anxiety for the next alarm.
He took a deep calming breath as he reached one on his countdown, and lifted his head to stare at the clock.
He braced himself, but no sound came from the nurse alarm. Maybe it had finally tired of the abuse and gone mute? He stared then at the monitor, daring the number ‘154’ to flash in red lights. Nothing. Then at the clock again.
Uh. Maybe the devil’s spawn had finally fallen asleep. Or died. Ideally , he thought, immediately feeling guilty by the thought. The guy had saved children, he deserved some slack. Maybe the patient really needed medical attention to be calling that much. Or maybe he didn’t, but for the insistence to have stopped so suddenly, maybe he did need help now .
Oh God, what if the man was really dead? Bucky sure had spent a whole portion of his night wishing him so. He had wanted some peace and quiet, but now the silence was... ominous. Like that silence wasn’t right.
And, to be honest, Bucky was at least slightly curious to see what happened to the guy. Maybe he should check, just case. God knew no nurses would be doing that anytime soon.
He wheeled his cart down the empty corridor, parking it outside of the corner room with the minimalist blue acrylic plate with a white number “154” hanging on the side of the door.
Room 154 was one of the Super Deluxe Suites for the pampered rich kids, with stocked refrigerator, comfy furniture and even an extra bed for night attendants on a corner by the door.
Peeking inside the room, the first thing Bucky noticed was the emptiness of said bed. He’d go for lonely Richie Rich, if the room wasn’t also filled with ridiculous gifts that seemed too personal to be simply social pleasantries of business partners or co-workers: many balloons, some with ridiculous phrases, some of Disney characters. Flower bouquets that could pass as impersonal if not for the many crayon drawings attached to them, obviously made by children. Maybe from the ones he had saved?
There were also some stuffed animals - a bear holding a pot of honey, something that looked like a robot and a ridiculously large pink rabbit.
Someone who was clearly loved by those who knew him couldn’t be that much of an asshole.
“Jesus, fuck! ” The grumble from the other side of the room alarmed Bucky to the patient. The voice was strained like he was trying to hold back the pain. So the patient had been in need after all.
“Hello?” Bucky tried, pushing himself through the door and fully inside of the room, trying to spot the patient. “Do you need-”
“Yes, please!” The guy interrupted before he could finish. “Turn on the lights and come over here”.
“I was actually offering to call a nurse” Bucky complained without real heat, but flipped the switch on anyway, if only to see the guy who had been driving him out of his mind the whole night.
And holy shit, did this guy need a nurse! His right arm was immobilized in a cast, as was his right leg, which was also supported by double slings. His torso was wrapped, which probably meant broken ribs, and the right side of his face and neck had tiny little cuts scattered all over.
But damn, that didn’t make his face any less gorgeous . Which was a really fucked up thing to think about a man who was clearly out of it, given the strain around his pretty brown eyes. Who the fuck had lashes that long?
“Hello there, sexy” The man greeted him, and wow, that voice was pure honey. Maybe the man was more out of it on drugs than he looked if he thought Bucky wearing the ugly, baggy and beige cleaning staff uniform was sexy.
But well, he started it.
“What can I help you with, doll?” Bucky drawled, walking closer to the bed.
“I can think of a few things” the man replied, wiggling his eyebrows - he clearly aimed for suggestive, but it was just ridiculous and it shouldn’t have been so damn adorable, given his current half-mummified status. “But I’m gonna settle for a little help with this for now”, he said and pointed to the fork sticking out of his leg cast.
The guy clearly was trying to scratch inside of the cast - many patients did that, the medical staff reportedly found the weirdest things inside of casts. A nurse swore a guy once shoved sand inside of his cast to try to stop the itching. A fork wasn’t all that unusual.
“My leg was itching and it was killing me. I couldn’t sleep like that”. The man complained, and then turned an adorable shade of pink. “But now it’s stuck too far and I can’t reach it to pull it out, not with my dominant hand useless inside of this cast.”
Bucky suppressed a laugh, not wanting to humiliate the man any further, and approached the bed, awkwardly hovering his right hand over the cast.
“May I?” He asked before actually making contact with the patient. The man just smirked suggestively at him again.
“Honeybunch, you can lay your hands on me any time. But be careful, I don’t like pain… much”.
This time, Bucky did laugh, but carefully managed to pluck the fork from the cast. “Do you always flirt with strangers that come into your room?”
“Only the hot ones. Except for Mr. Beefy Beefcake - that’s the cute blond asshole from the morning shift, by the way”. Tony explained, not without some heat. “He gave me a lecture on some international protocols bullshit and how couldn’t hack into the system to change information on my chart. Can’t flirt with that, our fights would be catastrophic!”
Bucky smiled, despite himself “I see you’ve met Steve”.
Tony huffed. “That’s his name? Suits him. My second guess was Helen.” That startled a laugh out of Bucky “I’m Tony, by the way.” He offered his good hand for Bucky to shake.
“Bucky” he introduced himself, but hesitated on taking Tony’s left hand because that meant he’d have to offer his left hand, and he was on the night shift exactly to avoid that kind of attention. In the end, he settled for awkwardly shaking on his right hand. If Tony noticed anything, he didn’t let it show, and Bucky exhaled in relief, trying to diffuse the mood.
“Why were you trying to change your chart anyway?” And immediately Bucky realized it was the wrong thing to say, given the way Tony’s smile became tight and less genuine.
“I… uh, I don’t want to be sedated. I’m an alcoholic”, he offered as way of explanation, turning his face away. The clenching of his jaw told Bucky he shouldn’t ask any further.
But this charming man wrecked his car saving children, broke half of his bones in the process and pushed through the pain to keep his sobriety. Holy shit. Bucky was a little bit enamored by the guy.
“That sucks”, he offered weakly, unable to bring himself to offer empty condolences. He hated when people looked at his arm and looked at him with pity , like they possibly understood what he had been through and offered a very condescending ‘sorry’. Bucky wasn’t a sorry case. And neither was Tony.
That at least seemed to be an appropriate response, for Tony at least smiled again, even if it was just a little bit.
“Yeah. Not as much as the food, but I’ll survive” the joke didn’t fall as flat, and Bucky counted that as a win.
“I could be persuaded to sneak in some cheeseburgers tomorrow” Bucky started, earning himself a look from Tony that seemed to be a mix of suspicion and amusement. “let’s say, you stop pushing that button every fifteen minutes, and I’ll bring in some goodies”.
That definitely brightened Tony up, and he gave a full body laugh that ended on a painful moan when he jostled his muscles. “And here I was ready to give up my virtue,” the man said, wheezing, but finally back to his genuine smiles.
“Well, I’ll have you know I’m not that kind of girl. I don’t put out before the third date” Bucky smiled back, and watched as Tony’s eyes widened a fraction, smile turning a little bit softer.
“Does this count as the first date?” Tony asked, wiggling his eyebrows in that ridiculous fashion of his once again. “We have flowers and everything”.
It was Bucky’s turn to turn a pretty shade of pink. “You know what? Sure.”
It was nearly 5 AM by the time Bucky left Tony’s room, giddy in a way he hadn’t felt in a long time. Granted, he had skipped almost two hours of work, and if someone had missed him (highly unlikely), he would be in some deep shit.
But he walked out with the promise of a date with the cutest guy he had seen, and he wasn’t even high on painkillers.
Maybe a little less peace and quiet was fine too.