Bucky was burning time in the community room of Stark’s tower, (which basically meant he was sprawled out across one of the plushy leather couches watching yet another horrible western movie and throwing popcorn at Clint whenever he got bored—so about every five minutes), when the computerized voice of Tony’s techno-butler came on over the intercom.
Excuse me sirs, sorry to interrupt, but Captain Rogers will be needing the first aid kit and Mr. Stark has requested one of you have it ready.
Bucky’s eyes went wide and he immediately flung his legs onto the ground, standing up and starting towards the hall closet he knew housed a small hospital hidden in a plastic storage tub. Images of what Steve could’ve possibly gotten himself into were already flashing through his mind—because if there was one thing he knew it was that Steve had a penchant for finding the worst kind of trouble.
He had no sooner pulled it out then the whoosh of the elevator doors had his head turning to see Tony walk in, followed by Sam helping a very exasperated Steve through the door. A very exasperated, very bloody looking Steve.
Bucky cursed under his breath.
“What the hell happened?” He asked, making it across the room to meet them in a few quick strides.
Steve just shook his head. “It’s nothing, Buck.”
By that time, the rest of the Avengers had filed into the room, appraising Steve with various looks of curiosity and concern. Bucky grit his teeth. “Sure doesn’t look like nothing.”
Steve sighed. “Nothing that won’t heal in a day or so.”
Bucky crossed his arms and glared at the stubborn idiot in front of him. Then, realizing he wasn’t getting anywhere with Steve, he looked to Sam. The man was sporting a pinched expression to match his own and Bucky made a note of approval before asking, “What happened?”
“Support beam fell on him.” Sam explained, walking Steve further into the room and ignoring the indignant noise he got for tattling. “Broken arm, some ribs too. And the beam crushed him into a mess of broken glass, drove some shards in pretty deep. Probably shouldn’t lay on his back for the rest of the day.”
Bucky narrowed his eyes at Steve. “Nothing? Nothing? Really, Steve?” Steve just looked up at him pathetically so Bucky pointed one arm sternly towards Steve’s bedroom. “Go take a shower right now and I’ll come in and look at you when you’re done. You’re going to get stitched, bandaged, and whatever else you need and then you’re going the fuck to bed and not getting out until I say so, understood?”
Steve just stared right back. Then, pulling his arm away from Sam’s shoulders, he lifted his chin and looked Bucky straight in the eye. (But he couldn’t quite hide the pain it took to straighten his chest out like that, at least not from Bucky.)
Everyone else in the room tensed for some kind of confrontation.
But Steve didn’t say a word, just looked a Bucky for another moment before walking past him and disappearing down the hall.
Tony was the first to speak. “What just happened? I’m not hallucinating, right? Everyone else just saw that?”
Bucky lifted an eyebrow. “Saw what? Steve being a reckless idiot?”
“No, we’re pretty much used to that by now.” Sam mused.
Natasha tilted her head to the side and gave Bucky an assessing once over. “More intrigued by how you got him to actually go take care of himself.”
“He usually doesn’t?” Bucky forced out, already pretty much knowing the answer. And yeah, Bucky was going to chain Steve to that bed if he had to.
Sam shook his head. “Dude usually just goes to bed and waits for the healing to stop. A lot of ruined sheets from all the bleeding he does on ‘em. Course if it’s really bad he does end up in the hospital. Mostly because he’s unconscious and can’t argue back but, you know, we’ll take it.”
“Really bad?” Bucky asked, voice tense. “This isn’t considered really bad?”
“More like on the verge of moderately not good.” Tony said, pouring himself a drink and taking a generous swallow. “Kind of in the lime green, skirting towards yellow-ish area. Nowhere near red.” He took another sip then leaned forward against the bar. “You should’ve been here when part of the bridge collapsed on him. Or when he roasted himself like a marshmallow getting people out of a burning building. That was definitely dark orange, going into red.”
“And do not forget his most valiant effort fighting against the creatures of the sea.” Thor added. “A feat even the most fierce warriors of Asgard would be proud of.”
Tony lifted his glass in Thor’s direction. “Ah yes, wouldn’t want to forget when cap almost got his leg eaten by loch ness’s cousin with anger issues. Great story. Tell it at all the parties.”
Clint’s voice suddenly chimed in from the couch. “Are we listing off all the times Steve’s cheated death? Because have you mentioned the exploding taxi? The exploding taxi was definitely the best.”
Bucky’s jaw was hurting he had it clenched so tight, trying to keep himself from hurtling back to Steve’s room and throttling the idiot by his neck. Because what the fuck had he been thinking? Going off and putting himself in danger like that when Bucky wasn’t around. They were supposed to be together until the end of the line. And that meant staying alive so you didn’t leave the other behind.
“So you see,” Tony continued, finishing off his first glass of amber colored liquid. Scotch, probably, not that it really mattered. “Not so bad this time. I even got the beam off him in less than a minute. That’s pretty much record time, I should start a scoreboard: Fastest Recovery of Cap’s Heroically Sacrificed Body.” He waved his hand dramatically in the air as if highlighting some kind of neon sign.
Bucky thought he was going to be sick.
Thankfully, Sam chose that moment to clear his throat and catch Bucky’s eye. “Well, we’re gonna go back and check on Steve. Should be done showering pretty soon. We’ll let you know how he is.”
Everyone murmured their agreement then scattered to various parts of the room, taking up residence on one of the couches or joining Tony at the bar. As if it was just any other day or something. As if one of their friends wasn’t washing off blood the next room over with basically his entire left side crushed in.
But he didn’t have time to consider their reactions; he had more important things to worry about. Like Steve.
When they arrived at his room and let themselves in, the shower was still running. So he and Sam were left hovering awkwardly in the middle of the room, Bucky pacing as his frustration rose and Sam’s eyes following his movements back and forth across the carpet.
“Something eating you?” Sam finally asked. “Besides Steve, that is.”
Bucky’s frantic march ground to a halt and he turned to stare Sam blankly in the face. “How the hell are all of you so casual about this?”
Sam lifted an eyebrow. “Care to elaborate on that one?”
“I just saw Steve walk through the door looking like he belonged in a hospital bed, and no one batted an eye. They joked about it for Pete’s sake.”
“That’s just how they cope, man.” Sam said. “None of us like him getting hurt, or think it’s funny, but at the end of the day we know that’s just how Cap is. He won’t listen to any of us about being more careful. And rather than drive ourselves crazy wondering when Steve’ll go down for a hero play and not get back up, we joke about it. Or at least they do. So don’t be too hard on ‘em, alright? And I’m sure we’d all be thankful if you could work some more of your magic and get him to stop jumping into the jaws of death in the first place.”
“My magic?” Bucky asked, knowing full well that Steve had been just as much of a death magnet when it was the two of them.
“Yeah, man. You’ve only been back for a month and Steve has already gotten better at being careful. This is the first time he’s gone so long without ending up in the hospital and I’m actually impressed he waited for Tony to get the beam off him instead of trying to do it himself and digging more glass into his back. Plus, that mojo you had back there, getting Steve to actually clean up before just passing out on the bed…you’ve definitely got some Captain America-whisperer type magic in you.”
“I doubt Captain America has anything to do with it.” Bucky mumbled. Then, hearing the water shut off, he went over to Steve’s dresser and pulled out a t-shirt and some running shorts before knocking on the bathroom door. “You decent in there yet, Rogers?”
There was a muffled just a second followed by a thump and the rattle of the medicine cabinet.
Bucky’s jaw clenched. “Open the door now, Steve.” He braced his hand on the doorframe, careful not to gouge the wood with his fingers. “Don’t even try to cover anything up, I’ll just take it all off to check it myself.”
The door opened a moment later, swinging back just a crack before Bucky shoved it the rest of the way and pushed into the room. Steve let out a sound of protest, but Bucky paid it no mind as he manhandled Steve (gently, oh god so gently because Steve was still breakable and Bucky would never hurt him ever again) up onto the countertop. He’d already taken up his traditional place between Steve’s thighs, pressed close and scrutinizing every inch of Steve’s skin for possible damage, when he realized the blush creeping up Steve’s neck, the way the man’s head was slightly bowed, dipping close to Bucky’s shoulder.
He cleared his throat and pulled back just enough to peer back out into Steve’s room. “I’ll take it from here, Sam. I’ll have Jarvis get you if we need any help.” The other man nodded an affirmative and Bucky turned back to Steve, put a hand on the side of his neck. “Gotta stop fucking scaring me like this, punk.”
Steve looked up and gave him a tight smile that Bucky could tell was fake from a mile away. He didn’t like it. At all.
“Stop it,” he squeezed a bit tighter at Steve’s neck, other hand coming up to hold his hip. “Don’t you dare do that with me, Steve. You smile if you’re happy, and you don’t if you’re not. You wanna cry? You fucking cry. You wanna scream and punch something? Fucking do it. But don’t you dare try and pull that shit with me.” He let the words sink in for a moment before reaching for the medical supplies already laid out on the counter, picking up a pair of tweezers and a scalpel to get to work on Steve’s back.
Thankfully, Steve’s healing had pushed most of the glass out of his body, but there were still a few pieces Bucky had to dig out himself, with blood dripping across pale skin and white tile before a silver needle halted its flow. And sure, the stiches probably weren’t necessary, but it was what Bucky was used to. And he wasn’t taking any chances.
Steve wasn’t complaining either, was just sitting and staring over Bucky’s shoulder, letting Bucky’s hands guide him where he needed to be. But Bucky wasn’t happy about that complacency, actually felt himself getting progressively more pissed off as he pulled and prodded at Steve’s damaged body without getting any response. And when everything was done, when he’d set the roll of bandages down and was standing between Steve’s thighs with nothing left to do but take him to bed, Steve still hadn’t complained once.
It was so wrong Bucky hardly knew what to do with himself.
“Shit, Stevie.” Bucky whispered, pressing his forehead to the side of Steve’s neck. “What’d they do to you? What’d they do to my best guy, huh?”
What’d they do to make the force that was Steve Rogers, turn into the stoic silence of a national icon? What fire had they forced him into, that had tempered him into such unflinching metal?
He felt Steve swallow before saying, “Buck?” And it was soft, voice cracking and broken at the edges. More lost than Bucky had ever heard him before.
Bucky sucked in a breath and pulled back to look Steve in the eye, cradling his face in one hand and pushing back his hair with the other. “Yeah, Steve. Yeah it’s me, I’m right here.” His fingers tightened in Steve’s hair and he frantically thought of what to do. Of how to piece together all of the time they had lost.
He figured he’d take a page out of Steve’s book from when Bucky’s having a bad day— pick up right where they’d left off back in 1945. “You back with me? Cuz I want my Steve back, not any of the Captain America crap you’ve been playing lately.”
There was a beat of silence, followed by Steve pulling in a shallow breath. “I—yeah, Buck. I just—.” His fingers gripped at the fabric by Bucky’s waist and held tight.
“It’s okay,” Bucky pushed his fingers back through Steve’s hair, gently scratching over his scalp. “I know, I know you’ve been playing the part for a long time without any breaks. But I’m back now, and you don’t have to pretend with me. Right, Stevie? No more pretending?”
Steve nodded woodenly and Bucky leaned forward to press a kiss to his forehead. “Good, now are you ready for bed? Need anything before?” He scrutinized Steve closely for a moment. “When’s the last time you ate?”
“I don’t…” Steve scrunched his face and shook his head. “I don’t remember. This morning, maybe. But Buck,” he added, clutching at Bucky’s shirt as Bucky’s frown returned. “Buck can we just go to bed, please? I—I just want…” He trailed off and looked away, face going red and expression shuttering off again.
But Bucky just sighed, because this was how Steve had been even back before the war-- never really able to admit to wanting any coddling. “Okay, fine. But you’re eating a huge breakfast in the morning without any arguments. I don’t care if the tower itself is collapsing, you are going to eat something before running off to save the day.”
Steve snorted softly but didn’t disagree, so Bucky stepped back and gently guided him down from the counter, taking in the towel still slung around his hips and nodding to the clothes sitting in a pile by the door. “I brought you some clothes, if you want to change...”
Looking the direction Bucky had indicated, Steve shook his head slowly.
“But…” Bucky continued, having already seen this coming as soon as he’d pried Steve from his Captain America embossed shell. “There’s always the option of you borrowing some of my stuff.” He grinned at Steve and nudged him gently with his shoulder. “How about it? Gonna let me see you in one of my shirts?”
A splash of red slid down Steve’s chest but Bucky knew that was a yes. (Besides, Steve had never refused an opportunity to steal Bucky’s clothes.) So as soon as they were back in the room, Bucky placed Steve on the edge of the bed and went to rummage in his own drawers. He tossed a white v-neck and some navy sweats beside Steve on the bed then got changed himself, pulling on some equally comfortable clothes before returning to Steve’s side.
The room was quiet and the evening sun was dipping below the skyline, everything blessedly calm as Bucky called for Jarvis. He requested the other Avengers be told that everything was fine and that all communication to their room be halted until the morning, a fair request he figured, considering how much time he and Steve had to make up for.
While he was talking, Steve just kept looking up at him with the same soft expression, mixed with just enough disbelief that Bucky was kicking himself for not seeing that Steve needed this sooner.
“Hey,” he murmured, touching Steve’s cheek gently once Jarvis confirmed the order, “I told you that I’m here, yeah? You’re fine.” He guided them both beneath the covers and pulled Steve close to his chest, not missing the way Steve positioned his head directly over Bucky’s heart. “And I’m fine too. Afraid you’re stuck with me, punk...”
And this time when Steve smiled, (even though it was wobbly and crooked and unsure) it was real as he finished,“…til the end of the line?”
“That’s right.” Bucky bent down and kissed the top of Steve’s head. “Til the end of the line, pal.”