Hello everyone! I know it's been a while, but I'm back to post my story for the Cap RBB. I had the pleasure of working with the wonderful artist Tunte (tuntematonkorppi on Tumblr), who made some awesome art that was the launching point for this story. Also, I would like to give a thank-you to the mods of this RBB - everything was run so smoothly, and even though this is only the second bang I've ever participated in, it has given me another wholly positive experience.

This story (with the art) will also be posted on AO3. My username there is Reign_of_Rayne.

Now, without further ado, the story. Enjoy!


1

Stupid. This was stupid. He was stupid. Just a mugging, right? Just a, "Hand over your groceries and wallet and no one gets hurt," right?

Wrong, according to the 9-millimeter hole in his side. God, he was so stupid.

Bucky blew out a shaky breath and leaned his head back against the cool brick of the alley wall. He was lucky to have gotten away from that mess of a scene before anyone responded to the gunshots, but the blood now seeping through his fingers was going to catch someone's attention if he tried to make his way back to his current base. He had to do something about his wounds and find a change of clothes before he could go anywhere public without taking the risk of someone noticing and calling the police or worse.

After making sure that no one had followed him into the alley, Bucky checked the extent of the damage. From what he could tell, the first bullet had punched into his right side and stayed in the wound. The mugger had shot Bucky through a dumpster, which had probably done enough to slow the bullet down that Bucky didn't have to deal with a through-and-through in such a dangerous section of his body.

Still, he needed that bullet out, and a dirty alley wasn't the place he wanted to do it even with his serum-enhanced system. And the last thing he wanted to do was leave more blood that someone could use to track him down.

The other two bullets had hit his right shoulder and scraped his left knee, making the entire situation far more irritating than it had any right to be.

He didn't have very long before his tissue would begin to knit itself back together, sealing the bullets inside, so Bucky moved quickly. After a few minutes of searching, he saw an apartment on the third floor of an aging building with its lights off. It was late in the day—about seven o'clock—but not late enough to justify going to bed early. Bucky's instincts told him that the room was empty. And if it wasn't, he'd adapt.

The old fire escape was tricky, especially with the injury to his shoulder. He could deal with the pain—he'd endured worse—but the muscles in that area weren't functioning properly, throwing off his balance and grip. By the time he made it to the window, his flesh hand was shaking.

No time to be delicate. Bucky forced open the window, hearing and seeing the old wood splinter under the strain. He ducked inside, landing softly on the old carpet and examining his surroundings.

No lights at all, and no signs of life that he could hear. Well, except for the tiny creature with glowing eyes staring at him from the kitchen doorway.

It meowed.

"Quiet," Bucky told the cat.

It meowed again—quietly. Bucky took that as his signal and crept past the creature, which for all its mottled fluffiness did a remarkable job of staying out of his way. Bucky's quick search of the kitchen yielded what he was looking for, and he took the bottle of vodka with him to the bathroom. The medicine cabinet behind the mirror was poorly stocked, so Bucky grabbed the tweezers, dental floss, and gauze. He briefly examined the small bottles of medicine; according to the prescriptions tacked onto the mirror, this person had recently been in some kind of accident.

That would explain the gauze.

He went to the bathtub and settled in, grinding his teeth together to stifle a groan of pain. Blood oozed out from between his fingers where he was pressing on the hole in his abdomen, reminding Bucky that he'd already left bloody handprints all over this apartment.

Later. He would deal with that later.

He stripped off his jacket and shirt, tossing them behind him in the tub. His shirt took some of the half-formed scabbing on both holes with it, leaving Bucky with more blood to deal with than before.

He opened up the vodka, waited one second for his head to empty, and then poured the alcohol over the hole in his abdomen. His nerves registered the burning agony immediately and Bucky's entire body tensed even though he tried to stop it. After a couple seconds he wrestled control from his muscles and forced himself to relax, shutting off the keening noise he hadn't realized he'd been making in the back of his throat.

He set the half-emptied bottle down and picked up the tweezers with the metal hand. After splashing them with more vodka in a bare-minimum effort to sterilize them, Bucky positioned them above the bullet hole. With the light above the shower acting as his only guide, Bucky inserted the tweezers into the wound and began digging for the bullet lodged somewhere in his extremely dense tissue.

The metal hand did not shake. The flesh hand formed a fist, the nails digging white crescents into the palm. His brain was no help, offering fragmented images of silver tables and white coats that only served to make the flesh hand shake harder.

His world was graying out at the edges, the colors bleeding into one another. Bucky forced air into his lungs.

The sensors on the metal hand picked up the tiniest vibration—the tweezers hitting the bullet.

Deep breath in, deep breath out. Repeat. Once more.

Bucky pushed the tweezers in deeper, forcing them around the bullet, shoving into already-damaged tissue until he could clamp them around the thing causing him so much pain. Bucky then pulled the bullet out, hearing the sucking noises it made as Bucky's body finally released the projectile. The bullet clinked against the tile floor where Bucky dropped it, the tweezers following a moment later. Bucky took a few seconds to just breathe, waiting for his body to catch up with his brain. The metal hand was slick with blood and glistened under the light, so Bucky wiped it off on his shirt. Then, once he could see in color again, he went back to cleaning the wound.

It was bad enough that it needed stitches, so Bucky pulled out the dental floss and then fished around in his jacket pocket to pull out the small container of emergency items he had begun carrying with him for first-aid. He pawed through the miscellaneous items until he found the tiny bag of needles. Selecting the smallest one he could reliably hold, Bucky threaded a bit of floss through it.

Another round of disinfecting and drying—an old voice in his head, distorted with time, "you gotta be careful about things like this, Stevie, c'mon"—and then he was stitching. The needle pierced the lips of the wound with deceptive ease but Bucky could feel it every time. In and out, the wound pulling closed bit by bit as Bucky used the metal hand to suture and the flesh one to push the edges closer together. Despite his efforts to go quickly, he still ended up with blood coating his fingers when he was done.

Then he repeated the process on his shoulder, though the wound there had much less damage around it. The bullet had damaged a solid chunk of skin and more flesh underneath, but the bone had avoided the worst of the carnage.

He finished digging the bullet out and stitching up the wound, set his supplies down, and looked up.

The cat was in the doorway, staring at him with its big green eyes.

"Mrrt," it said.

"What?" Bucky replied, frowning at it.

"Mrrrt," it repeated, more insistently this time. Bucky glanced at the bloody mess around him and then back up at the cat.

"I'm going to clean up."

It began licking itself. Bucky swore at it in Russian for no other reason than to get the last word in and then treated the injury on his knee.

Once he had sufficient bandaging in place—courtesy of the gauze and a few other things he'd pilfered from the bathroom—Bucky moved all his things to the bathtub and began to clean the rest of the apartment. Fortunately, he had avoided dripping any blood onto the floor, but there were several places in the kitchen and bathroom where he had left bloody smears on the handles and drawers. He wiped those areas down with paper towels soaked in cold water while the cat trailed behind him. To be fair, this was probably the most interesting thing to happen to the dumb creature in years.

"/You are tiny and annoying/," Bucky told it in Russian as he disposed of the paper towels. It yawned back.

Cleanup took ten minutes. There was nothing he could do about the window—he'd given most of his cash to the mugger (in what had proven to be a failed tactic for peace)—so he left what remained on the counter alongside a note.

Sorry for window. Had no other option. Thank you for things, it read.

He tossed the pen back to where he'd found in on the counter. The metal hand left no fingerprints, so once Bucky collected the rest of his things, he went back through the apartment in search of something he could wear that wasn't colored a suspicious crimson. The occupant of this place was large, larger than Bucky. He took a sweatshirt and slipped it on, trusting the baggy red fabric to hide any potential bloodstains. Then he climbed back out the window, shoved it closed as best he could, and made his way back to ground level.

This was not at all the way he had wanted to start his night. He'd been planning a nice walk home, some reading, maybe something else he'd surprise himself with. Not bullets and blood.

Bucky headed for the exit of the alley, only pausing when he got the prickly feeling that he was being watched.

He turned and looked back at the broken window.

The cat was perched on the other side of the glass, staring. Bucky mockingly saluted the creature for its ceaseless vigilance and then continued walking. Thanks to the accident earlier, he would have to go shopping again. Having given the last of his cash to the apartment occupant, Bucky headed for a more crowded area of town.

With a mission in mind, the crowds didn't bother him as much as they usually did and the pain of his injuries could be relegated to the very edge of his awareness. Bucky slipped in and out of streams of people, his hands working as quickly as his mind could identify targets. Within ten minutes and three blocks, Bucky had pick pocketed enough money to finance his groceries for the next few days on top of the supplies he was about to purchase.

He slipped out of the populated area, heading for a tucked-away section of street dominated more by small, run-down shops and corner markets than ritzy stores and restaurants. The shop Bucky ducked into didn't have everything he wanted, but it had enough. Bucky got his groceries and other items, paid and thanked the cashier, and went on his way. This time, trouble stayed away from him as he walked, but Bucky wasn't leaving anything to luck. He kept his eyes moving and his free hand near the blade hidden in his jacket.

He would have to move again; that mugging incident had been the third unusual event in this area since Bucky had moved in from his last haunt. Too many more and the wrong eyes could start looking his way.

His internal clock said it was sometime around eight o'clock when he made it back to his hideout. Tucked into the back of a building scheduled for demolition the next month, the small series of rooms was perfect for Bucky's temporary needs. Cut off from view, he had dragged in a sleeping bag, light, and small pile of books he'd planned on finishing before he had to move again—a plan that wasn't going to work anymore

His groceries—canned goods, mostly, but this time he'd gotten some relatively fresh fruit and vegetables—went into their proper places in the room that got the most cool air from outside. The bag went into a larger bag that contained all the rest of the bags. The basic medical supplies went by the books, to the left of the duffel bag that could fit all of Bucky's belongings in an emergency. Bucky himself went to the sleeping bag after removing his boots. Bending over proved to be a challenge, so in the end Bucky just toed the boots off, nearly falling when his balance shifted farther than he expected because of his wounds.

He paused for a moment when a loud blast of a car's horn cut through the wall, but after a moment it faded into the general hubbub of the city. Still, the interruption was a good reminder to sweep the building for other squatters. After fifteen minutes of thorough searching, he found no other signs of people inside.

Reassured, Bucky returned to his room, grabbed his current book, settled into his sleeping bag, turned on the small lamp at his side, and began to read in the comfortable pseudo-silence of his own space.


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