bucky catching a bad cold and steve waiting on him hand and foot and rushing to his side every time he hears a weak, “steeb”
Sam wasn’t a covert ops kind of guy. He never had been, not even back in the day. Pararescue didn’t exactly call for hiding and spying and all the stuff that Natasha and the SHIELD people did so well.
That didn’t mean he was blind or stupid.
He only left the hospital once before Steve regained consciousness, and he saw a man watching him from an alley across the street. It took him a second to place the guy, and by the time he did, the Winter Soldier was gone.
Wasn’t a big surprise the guy was still alive.
Steve swore blind that the Winter Soldier was the one who pulled him from the water. No one really wanted to believe that, but with Steve’s injuries and the state he was in when they found him, there was nothing else they really could believe. The Winter Soldier had saved him and walked away.
Barnes, Steve insisted.
His friend was still in there, and he was going to bring him back home.
So Sam signed up to help him. Someone had to.
Everything he saw about Captain America said hero.
Everything he saw about Steve Rogers said something else. Yeah, he was a hero, but he threw himself into situations that could kill him, on the chance that it would save people. He was the kind of dumbass who would jump on a grenade for his brother, and that kind of guy really wasn’t the kind of guy to leave alone on a mission to find a former Soviet assassin.
The Winter Soldier - Barnes - didn’t want to be found. Everywhere they went, it was like they were just a few steps behind him.
Sam had no doubt Barnes knew they were following him. You didn’t spend years as an undercover assassin without knowing how to stay out of sight.
That was why it came as a hell of a shock when he was sitting in a cafe, having breakfast, while Steve was doing a batch of laundry at the latest laundromat - who knew industrial washers were so good at getting blood out of clothes? - and someone slid into the booth opposite him.
He looked up, expecting Steve, and found James Barnes there instead. He looked like hell, unshaven, his eyes bloodshot. He was wearing an oversized bomber jacket, and his hands were hidden under the table. Sam had to fight the urge to look under the table and check there wasn’t a gun.
"You need to make him stop," Barnes said, his voice hoarse as if he hadn’t used it in a long while.
Sam stared across the table at the man, knife and fork held tight in his hands. “Excuse me?”
"Steve. He needs to stop looking for me."
Sam set down the cutlery. He could see the Soldier’s eyes flick to it, assessing it, and dismissing it as irrelevant. “You’ve met Steve Rogers, right?” he said. “Tall guy, blond, not keen on being told what to do?”
Watching Barnes’ face was like watching a video on a time-delay. It took a second, then one side of his mouth twitched, as if he saw the humour. It was a flicker of an expression and then it was gone. “He’s your friend now,” Barnes said. “He listens to his friends.”
"You’re shitting me," Sam said. "I swear to god, he does exactly the opposite." He eyed Barnes, wondering just how much the man could remember, then leaned forward. "Was he this bad with you? Before?"
Dark eyebrows drew together over blue eyes. “Maybe?” He shook his head suddenly, sharply. “That doesn’t matter. He does. You have to make him stop.”
"I can try," Sam said. "Hell, I’ve been trying for weeks. Only thing that’ll stop him is seeing you. You know that."
Barnes’ features tensed, and for a moment, something dark and violent crossed his face. “Not yet. I’m not… right yet.”
"I get that." Sam nodded. He reached down into his knapsack and didn’t miss the way Barnes’ whole body shifted, as if expecting an attack. "Here." He scribbled down his number and slid the paper across the table. "When you’re ready, you let me know. I’ll try to keep him off your tail. Give you some time to get your head together."
Barnes looked blankly at the piece of paper, then lifted his right hand and drew it across the table. He didn’t look at Sam as he got up, taking the paper. “You watch his back,” he said. “He forgets he’s not indestructible.”
"Serum made him feel like superman," Sam agreed, keeping his hands on the table, passive, harmless.
The smile flickered on Barnes’ face again. “Nah,” he said. “That’s just Steve.” His hand curled and the paper disappeared, and he turned and walked away.
Sam watched him go, and wondered what kind of bullshit he would have to spin to keep Steve back. In the end, when Rogers showed up, it turned out all he needed was the truth.