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A Fucking Written Invitation

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Bruce comes to Steve's room looking two parts professional and one part like he would very much like to die.

"Steve," he says, and makes a beeline for the small desk in the corner. His expression strained, he lays some papers there. Steve looks up from his novel and slides off the comforter, coming over and glancing down at the printouts. They look like they're from WebMD. "We need to talk."

"Is this about Bucky?" Banner had been Bucky's go-to doctor for the brief time when he couldn't trust more people than he had fingers on his right hand, but they'd gotten him a real GP over a week ago, hadn't they?

"Yes, I'm afraid it is. It's - no, don't panic, he's fine. He's fine." Bruce lifts his glasses and pinches the bridge of his nose, a gesture Steve has noticed he does a lot during periods of stress. "I wanted to give you a heads-up on a few things... Bucky came to me this morning, and seeing as you're his emergency contact, and he's not strictly my patient, and I'm not strictly bound by HIPAA in any way, I decided to be sensible and just. Let you know the broad idea of what's going on."

"But he's fine," Steve repeats slowly, unable to will his heartbeat to slow.

"Yes, yes. More than fine, actually. He's getting better." Bruce touches the top page of the print outs, which says SSRIs in big letters. "We weren't able to determine exactly what they'd been giving Bucky to keep him... docile... but we know it involved several mixes of sedatives and uppers as necessary, with an underlying current of several things, including SSRIs that probably... kept the edge off. I'm not a psychiatrist. Just." Bruce is gesticulating something that could either be the shape of his lack of knowledge in this area or perhaps whatever an SSRI is.

"Okay," Steve says, because he's found saying that occasionally helps Bruce or Tony continue in whatever it is they're talking about.

"The half-lives of such medications depend on the person, their metabolism, even diet, how long they've been taking it, but, yes, well, eventually they wear off if not continued."

"So Bucky's... edgy?" That would certainly merit a warning.

"No, not exactly, he's," Bruce breathes in deeply. "SSRIs have several side effects, again, they vary depending on the person, but a common one involves li, libido, that is, interest, and often other things involving, that, those things." Bruce's expression is tilting away from 'professionalism' and far, far closer to 'would like to die'. Steve swallows. "So, as the medications work their way out of his system, it would be very common for things to... to rebound, to, to return to as they were,"

"Oh," Steve says.

"And, and so it's not an issue, so much as, as a heads-up! That, that things are returning, um,"

"Oh."

"To, to normal..." Bruce blinks a few times, trying to hold it together, but finally he rips off his glasses and rubs at his eyes. "Jesus, Steve, I just had to explain to a ninety-something year old ex-killer that it was normal to have dreams and wake up with unusual physical attributes and, and listen, we have to get him a male GP, a, a man, because when I asked him why he hadn't just called her to discuss this he looked at me like I'd suggested he slap her in the face."

"Oh."

**

Steve reaches the breakfast table to find two empty plates already there. Bucky is curled on the couch up like a cat, head in Natasha's lap, eyes shut and face serious as she strokes his hair. Occasionally she murmurs in Russian, nodding as he gives brief replies. Steve watches this for a few moments before joining Sam in the kitchen, who waves to him before double-taking and leaning in.

"You okay, man?" Sam looks worried. "You look like you've seen a ghost. A ghost that punched you in the face."

"I think," Steve says, leaning heavily against the counter, "that I have the same feeling of dread in my stomach as fathers watching their girls reach puberty."