I keep telling you, Buck, I'm fine.'
<NYC> Red Hook - Brooklyn
Bucky had thrown the windows of the Rogers' apartment open as soon as he and Steve made it back, hoping to get some airflow going through the stifling rooms. Between the bloody nose and walking up however many flights, he's surprised Steve hasn't started to wheeze. The summer heat that crept up from the ground outside into the packed apartment buildings would probably be the thing to make him start.
"Sit down somewhere, would ya, before you bleed all over and give me something else to clean up," he tells Steve, while heading for the bathroom. Bucky doesn't know if Mrs. Rogers keeps such a well stocked first-aid kit because she's a nurse or because she has Steve for a son, but it always comes in handy.
"I keep telling you, Buck, I'm fine." Steve wanders over to the window himself, leaning out, perhaps hoping for some relief from the stale hot air. The hot air outside isn't a whole lot less stale, though, and once he'd sucked in that breath he seems to have a hard time expelling it again. He braces the heels of his skinny, blood-stained hands on the windowsill -- mindful of the pots of herbs -- and makes a gallant effort to breath normally. Quietly. No dice. By the time Bucky has returned, Steve is both wheezing and dripping blood onto the casement.
"Yeah, you sound real fine." The first-aid kit is deposited on a threadbare couch cushion, before Bucky leads Steve to sit beside it. "Come on, Rogers, don't tell me you forgot how to breathe. You get that knocked out of your head too?" For all the shit Bucky gives him, he still keeps an ear on Steve's breathing, trying to mentally will it to match his own as he rattles around the apartment, getting water and rags.
Steve's bony frame is ill-equipped to resist leading even when he is breathing properly, and now he kind of collapses where he's deposited, bracing his elbows on his knees and hanging his head low, trying not to bleed on the upholstery. The sitting down seems to help his attack, because after a few more labored breaths he manages to gasp out, "Gotta give you...something to feel...accomplished about."
Bucky hands Steve a rag to press against his nose, muttering about what a little punk he is. "I got plenty of accomplishments. Six great big ones for keeping you alive year after year. I even got medals for 'em." He grabs a chair from the kitchen, drags it into the other room to sit across from Steve. "They're real nice. Made of solid gold, 'cause it's that much of an accomplishment." The bowl of water gets plunked down on the floor by their feet; Bucky dips another rag into it, grabs one of Steve's hands, starts to scrub it clean of blood. "I'm gonna sell 'em once I get older, get me a real swanky place where the walls ain't made of newspaper."
Steve tries not to wince as he puts pressure on his bloodied nose, which is starting to swell from where one of the bully's fists had caught it. He surrenders his other hand to Bucky without a fight. Most of the blood on it is his own, but there would be bruises on his knuckles later, too. "See? What would...you do if...you didn't have me...to keep it challenging?" He tries to smile, but it's mostly hidden behind the rag.
"Challenging ain't even the word for it, pal, and you know it." Bucky squints, inspecting Steve's hand once it's clean enough. The scrubbing has started the bleeding again, but it's sluggish. He drops the rag into the water bowl, letting Steve's hand drop as well, and leans over to open the first aid kit. The gauze and antiseptic are right on top. It's almost like the first-aid kit gets used at least once a week. "Think your nose is broken?" he asks, grabbing Steve's hand again to start dabbing antiseptic onto his knuckles.
Steve's breath hisses inward at the sting of the antiseptic, and he wheezes harder again. Shakes his head. Winces at the pain that attends the movement. "Didn't mean...to drag you in. Connor's gonna...have it in...for you now."
"I can handle a shithead like Connor." Bucky doesn't ease up on the antiseptic. Better to get it over with. And there's always the impossible dream that the sting might one day be deter Steve from the idea of fighting every other asshole in New York City for the #1 Asshole Award. "And who said you dragged me into anything? I jumped in to save your punk ass, same as every other time."
Steve bites back some kind of pain noise and starts breathing a little easier again. "Didn't need saving," he insists, cautiously pulling the rag away from his nose. There's a patch of blood on it, but the bleeding does seem to have stopped. Again. His grin is crooked as one side of his cheek swells up. "Do appreciate the...company, though."
Bucky's gaze skirts over Steve's grin as he glances up to inspect his nose. He's powerless to stop himself from responding with a smile of his own. "Yeah. I never get tired of looking at my face either." Satisfied that Steve's nose is as fine as it can be, he trades rags with him, pressing the wet one into Steve's clean hand. "Here, clean your face up. Only so much of that mess I can take."
Steve takes the wet rag and wipes his face, lighter when he skirts over the bruised cheek. The rag comes away stained with blood and grime. "Thanks, Bucky." He re-folds the rag and uses the clean exposed surface to make another pass of his face. His breathing has finally started evening out, though it's still noisy. "Maybe I'll finally grow a bit..." He looks up at his friend with a rueful smile. "...and you can stop saving me all the time."