Native Tongue

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The further you and Bucky got from the med wing, the slower Bucky walked. His ultra-fast metabolism was working through the pain medicine at a breakneck pace now that he didn't have a continuous drip, and by the time you reached the apartment his face was pulled into a grimace, his chest heaving with his labored breaths.

But he kept going, forcing himself forward until his bare feet touched the threshold of his bedroom. Your hand gripped his vibranium elbow as you made a beeline for the bed— he needed to lay down, he needed to rest— but Bucky's hesitation pulled you to a stop. You turned to look at him, but he wouldn't meet your eyes— his gaze was focused down to his grimy chest, at the coating of blood and sweat and iodine that covered him.

His eyes flickered toward the unmade bed: the crisp sheets, the white duvet, that blue throw blanket that you loved so much. He frowned and stepped back slightly.

"C'mon," you said softly as you followed his gaze to the bathroom door. "Let's get you cleaned up."

You deposited Bucky at the bathroom counter, and he propped most of his weight against the quartz while you started up the shower. The water came out cool at first, and you couldn't help but sneak glances at Bucky while you waited for it to heat up. He was extremely still, like even the smallest movements caused him an immense amount of pain, but his eyes flickered between you and the floor. He fussed with his split lip, rolling it between his teeth, and a slight pink tinge spread across his cheeks.

"Baby, I—" he started, but he couldn't, or wouldn't, force the rest of the sentence out.

You shook water droplets from your hand. "Do you need help with the boxers?" you asked. "It's almost ready." You were almost cheerful— you couldn't help it. Bucky was filthy and hurt but he was safe, he was back where he belonged—

But Bucky grimaced when he looked at the shower stall. "What is it?" you asked, your voice softening as worry crept back in. Maybe he wasn't okay, maybe you should call Banner—

"I... don't think I can shower right now," he admitted slowly, redness and shame creeping across his cheeks. "I don't think I can stand that long." He mumbled the last part out, like it was a character flaw, like it was some inherent weakness he should be embarrassed about.

You knew you shouldn't smile, but you were so relieved— you could fix that, you could handle that. "Oh," you breathed, and Bucky finally met your eyes. Where he was expecting judgement and disdain there was only tenderness, and his posture softened considerably. You shut off the shower. "Right, right—"

"If you just get me a blanket I can lay down in here, sleep a bit? At least the tile's easy to clean—"

"Don't be ridiculous," you scoffed. "I'm not letting you sleep in here." You grabbed the bottles of shampoo and body wash off the ledge in the shower and nodded toward the large soaking tub in the corner of the room. "Get in," you ordered.

Bucky huffed, then winced again at the way his abdomen moved. "What, you're not gonna run me a bath first?" he asked, one corner of his lips turning up as he limped forward. "What kind of service is this?"

You snorted before a smile took over your face— he must not be in too bad of shape if he could still manage that level of snark. With your hand on his vibranium elbow, more for emotional support than anything, Bucky took slow, hobbling steps toward the tub.

"You really want to stew in hot bloody dirt water?" you teased. "I guess I could arrange that—"

Bucky cracked a smile— literally, because the dried blood on his lip split open again. "Well, the hot water would ease some of the aches—"

"Just be glad I'm not hosing you down in the hangar, you heathen," you muttered. Bucky had reached the edge of the tub, and you helped him shrug your hoodie off his shoulders before you met his eyes with that wicked glint.

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