"Oh, thank God, you're here."
Bucky looked up from the tablet he was browsing, the game with birds and pigs and buildings folding back into its little icon for later. He'd known Dr. Foster was on the common floor, and he'd heard her come into the room (he'd have considered it a personal failing if he hadn't) but he hadn't expected her to speak with him.
"Bucky, would you help me? I wanted to make some dinner for Thor and me but I completely lost track of time while I was working. Does Tony have some sort of vendetta against clocks? Because I think he keeps removing every one of them from the lab except timers," she said, wiping her hands on a dishtowel, her hair sticking up from a messy ponytail.
Bucky blinked at her, recognizing his name (or at least the name he was taking the effort to get used to) but the rest of what she said not making immediate sense. Then the words made sense, but the rest of it didn't make sense. She wanted him to help with... cooking?
Mentally, he shrugged. It was a defined task, and he preferred those to Steve's more vague, Go catch up on things. I'll answer any questions you have. Steve meant well, but sometimes he had no idea of what things were like inside his head. And cooking was at least useful, unlike mastering a bird game.
"I can do that," he said, getting up and heading into the kitchen with her. He could do that. He could. He could be useful.
"Oh thank you. Seriously, Tony and his clock thing is going to get me into so much trouble. It took Darcy texting me to get me up here, and Darcy was texting me about fashion advice, so I ended up getting lucky because I was in the middle of math and it can take a minor miracle to get me out of a math daze..." Jane kept chatting at him as she handed him a couple of large white onions, a cutting board, and large knife. "Could you dice those, please? I'm so sorry, but if I do it my eyes will be watering so bad I won't be able to read the recipe."
Bucky nodded, his hand slipping around the handle of the knife, automatically noting the nuances of its lethal qualities, and the fact that the handle made it a sub-optimal choice for anything but a blitz attack. But it was satisfactorily sharp. He waited for a moment for her to leave, but Dr. Foster went right back to digging spices out of the cabinet, removing ground meat from the refrigerator, and pulling out a pot from the cupboard.
She didn't look back at Bucky at all. He was three feet from her, well within his lethal range. He was within arm's reach of no less than three dozen items that could be used for bludgeoning, slashing, or stabbing. He knew at least eighteen other items within view could be used to temporarily disable someone. His left arm was strong enough to punch through her chest wall and rip out her heart. He could crush her throat with his right with minimal effort.
She turned her back on him and put the pot on the stove, turning on the heat and then waiting just a moment before dumping in the ground meat and breaking it up with a spoon. Dr. Foster leaned over, closer to him, to read the recipe, then yelped and reached right over his left shoulder with a hasty, "Sorry, oh god, I didn't even count how many I needed, please, please tell me Bruce didn't eat them all!" She pulled out cans of tomatoes and tomato paste with a grin of triumph and counted them with a sigh of relief.
There was now a pot of hot metal and grease within lethal range. And Dr. Foster didn't seem to care about that.
"Whenever you're done, just throw those bad boys in a pan so I can start them cooking. You think Thor likes chili? I really hope so. You like chili? You can be my test-taster," she said, half-babbling as she pulled out another pan, some oil, then dropped everything to look for measuring spoons.
Bucky looked down at the knife, the gleaming surface reflecting his metal hand as the onions stared inoffensively up at him from the cutting board. He had a mission. A mission to cut onions. He chopped them up quickly, recalling he'd once done something similar to the body parts of recalcitrant HYDRA prisoners so they knew there was no possibility of saving their limbs.
There was much less screaming involved in this. Bucky liked that. He scooped up the onions and put them in the hot, oiled pan, listening to them sizzle and send up a satisfactory aroma.
"Just give those a stir, please!" Dr. Foster said, handing him a formidably large wooden spoon that could have easily been snapped to use as a sharp stabbing implement. She finished browning the meat and tossed in the tomatoes and variety of spices before looking over at the onions. She was standing right next to him, next to him and hot heavy metal implements. Without a care in the world. She knew about him, she knew what he was capable of. Thor had told her; Bucky knew that.
"They're done, go ahead and throw them in," she said, pointing to his pan. Bucky put the onions in the budding chili and paused as Dr. Foster lifted a hand to his face, brushing away a track of moisture spilling down his cheek. Her hand was within range of his teeth.
"Oh geez, I'm sorry. Those were way stronger than I thought," she said, ducking her head in her typical apologetic gesture.
Bucky felt another drop of moisture trickling from his eye and down his cheek. "No, it's fine."
She beamed at him and went back to stirring with a will. Bucky leaned over, closer into her space, to read the recipe. She didn't even move.
"I know where some whole dried chilies are," he offered.
"Lifesaver," she said in response. Bucky went to go find them, a few more tears trickling down his cheeks.