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A piercing chime echoed through the gym, prompting Bucky to drop his weights to the floor with a long exhale

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A piercing chime echoed through the gym, prompting Bucky to drop his weights to the floor with a long exhale. That was his cue, his 4:30 p.m. alarm that told him to wobble to the showers and clean up so he could get back upstairs before you started preparing dinner. He needed to be there, just in case— in case you fumbled with a knife again, in case you burned yourself on the hot stove, in case you set the whole goddamn building on fire. Safety, and nothing else, was why he made dinner with you a priority every night now. He told himself that until it felt true.

Bucky took over most of the cooking that evening, working quietly next to you as you fetched ingredients and read the recipe aloud for him to follow. You had re-wrapped your hand with fresh gauze while Bucky was away, and he could tell it was tender by the way you unconsciously kept it clutched to your chest. When the kitchen timer went off, Bucky reached into the oven and pulled the hot pan out with his left hand.

"Needs a couple more minutes," he said as he inspected the food. You were uncharacteristically quiet, and he glanced up to find you staring at him, stock-still and wide-eyed. He frowned, his brows furrowed as he picked up the pan again— oh. A laugh bubbled out of you, turning Bucky's cheeks red as he placed the pan back on the oven rack and turned to you.

"Jesus, you scared me," you chuckled. "I don't know how to do first aid on a metal hand, don't think you can put burn cream on that— doesn't it hurt? You said you can feel things with it."

"No. I mean, I can tell it's hot, but it doesn't hurt. I don't think they put pain receptors in it." He held his hand out in front of him, trying to examine it from your perspective.

"That's so cool," you murmured, more to yourself than to him.

"I guess," he mumbled, wiping both his hands on his jeans, but he was pleased. He was used to people being impressed by his prosthesis, but always because of its power, its strength, its usefulness as a weapon. He liked that it was useful in situations like this, too. Situations that made him feel normal— hell, maybe a little better than normal— a welcome change after years of feeling less than human. He tucked his hair behind his ear with his metal hand.

You stood on your toes to pull a bottle of wine and two glasses from a cabinet while you waited for the next timer to go off. Shimmying over to Bucky, you silently held a glass out with your bandaged hand, but he shook his head. You put the second glass away without protest and set yours on the table, filling it halfway to the rim with that expensive red wine Stark always kept stocked. Bucky paused with one hand on the oven handle, watching you over his shoulder with narrowed eyes.

"How old are you?" he asked as you settled onto the chair and raised the glass to your lips. He suddenly thought you didn't look old enough to drink. Well, shit, maybe you did. After a hundred years, his perspective was probably a little off.

"A gentleman never asks a lady her age." You looked up at him from under your lashes, your accent unconvincingly posh. Bucky slowly turned to face you, his hands on his hips.

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