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“Sam,” Steve calls, as he pushes through the glass front doors, beaming. “There’s someone I want you to meet.”

Sam looks up from the shot glass he’s cleaning, feigning surprise; it’s a Monday evening, nearly eight, and Lucky Star is damn near empty. Just Val, hanging out in her dark corner booth, boredly nursing a drink, probably waiting on Thor’s goofy ass to show up. Steve has texted Sam twice, once yesterday and once today, to remind him that today is the new guy’s first day. 

The new guy shadows Steve as they approach the bar. He’s dark-haired, handsome, tall, clad in a plain black henley and blue jeans; Bucky, Sam knows, Bucky Barnes. He had admittedly not expected a face like that with a name like Bucky.

“Hey, man,” Sam says, stepping out from around the bar and extending a hand. “Nice to meet you.”

Bucky takes Sam’s hand and shakes it, his grip firm. “Hey,” he says, smiling quickly, maybe nervously. He’s a hard one to read at first blush, his expression betraying very little, but Sam considers himself a fairly good reader. “You’re the best man.”

Sam blinks, and then Bucky’s meaning catches up to him. “Oh,” he says. “Yeah, that’s me. Not a dry eye in the house after my speech, let me tell you.”

“Nobody cried harder than you did,” Steve says, rolling his eyes.

“Yeah, ‘cause it was that damn good,” Sam says, and Steve laughs. Bucky smiles, glancing back and forth between them, maybe doing some analysis of his own.

“Bucky and I have known each other since we were kids,” Steve says, still beaming, stuffing his hands into the pockets of his jeans. He seems to have forgotten that Sam has, in fact, heard of Bucky before. Unlike Bucky, Steve’s nervousness radiates off him in waves; he’s damn near bouncing up and down on the balls of his feet. “Sam’s from the city, too, Buck. Harlem. He’s Air Force, though.”

“You mentioned it,” Bucky says mildly. Of course he’s probably heard as much about Sam, and Peggy, and Lucky Star, in the past several weeks as Sam has heard about him in the last few years; Bucky coming to work for him has given Steve something positive to fixate on, sort of a blessed relief with his anxieties over impending fatherhood mounting by the day. Steve has been a ball of repressed manic energy for the last seven months, give or take a few weeks.

Sam smiles. “Glad to see we’re on the same page here,” he says. “I know about the time you made Steve puke at Coney Island, you probably know about the time Steve puked on me and got us thrown out of a cab. Full circle, I think.”

“I didn’t puke on you!”

“My ruined pair of sneakers begs to differ,” Sam says, and Steve laughs, shrugging as if to admit defeat. Bucky is smiling again, observing this interaction with an air of cautious pleasure. Still, his shoulders are drawn up slightly, his posture cagey. 

Steve had mentioned a checkered background, but he hadn’t given details—Sam had gotten the impression he didn’t have many details himself. Sam’s heard of Bucky before now, but only as sort of a ghost story, after Bucky basically fell out of Steve’s life for reasons Steve himself has never been quite clear on. Under the circumstances, though, Sam can respect a desire for privacy.

“I’m going to give him the tour,” Steve says, gesturing as if to indicate the rest of the building. There’s not a whole lot to tour with a place this small, nothing but a bar, some booths, and an open floor, but Steve will want to show Bucky the storage rooms and office, of course. “But you two will be seeing a lot of each other.”

“I’m sure,” Sam says, just as Bucky says, meeting his eyes, “I’m looking forward to it.”

Sam raises his eyebrows, and Bucky surprises him by grinning briefly, before inclining his head in a polite nod. If Steve catches this, he doesn’t let on, although his gaze flicks back and forth between them briefly before he keeps things moving. 

Not shy, then, Sam decides, as he watches Steve lead Bucky behind the bar and through the door to the back. Just quiet. And, it seems likely, trouble.

Business picks up a little around 8:30, but Monday is their slowest night by far; the bar is populated with a few couples on dates and a half dozen regulars. Close is at two on Mondays—well, Tuesdays, technically—but they’re already packing things up at 1:45. 

Sam is bending down to replace some glasses under the counter when Bucky speaks nearby.

“Um,” he says. “Can I help you out with anything?”

Sam lifts his head. “Floors mopped, bathrooms cleaned?” he asks, and Bucky nods. “You made quick work of it. Not much else to do, to be honest.”

He means this to say you can head out if you want, as he’ll be doing the same once he closes out the register and counts his paltry tips. Ordinarily Steve or Peggy or both would still be around to oversee things, but they’ve spent fewer and fewer nights here of late, trusting the run of the place to Sam. 

Bucky doesn’t seem to take this hint, which Sam doesn’t mind. He’s a quiet, efficient worker, although this is clearly his first time working in a bar. He moves closer, resting both hands lightly on the edge of the bar. “Mind the fingerprints,” Sam says, “I just wiped down.”

Bucky smiles and moves his hands, but not before Sam gets a good look at the gleaming metal of his left hand and wrist. He’s caught a few glimpses over the course of the night—Bucky’s had very little to do other than stand by the front door and observe things, his arms crossed loosely in front of him—but hasn’t been able to tell if Bucky’s wearing some kind of glove or brace or what. It seems, though, that the metal hand is the real deal.

Bucky must notice the glance. “It’s a prosthetic,” he says bluntly. “Whole arm.”

“Oh,” Sam says, nodding. “That’s pretty cool.”

Bucky raises his eyebrows at this, and Sam wonders if he’s said the wrong thing, but then he says, “Thanks.”

“You want anything?” Sam asks, finishing with the glasses and straightening up. “Bottle of water? Or I could be persuaded to make you a celebratory drink. It is your first night, after all.”

Bucky shakes his head, but the corners of his mouth quirk upwards. “No, thanks,” he says. “I’d better save that drink for when I’m sure Steve’s going to keep me around.”

“It’s not Steve you’ll have to worry about, frankly,” Sam says, moving toward the register and beginning the process of closing it out. “You met Peggy yet?”

“Yeah, a couple times now,” Bucky says. “Steve took me on as a favor, but I’m pretty sure he’s cashing in a favor from her.”

“That’s probably accurate,” Sam says. “She handles the business end of things. She’s great, though. Extremely British. You’ll like her.”

“I already do,” Bucky says. He lingers at the edge of the bar, idly watching Sam quickly count out bills, and reaches up to tuck some hair behind his ear. “So you’ve known Steve for a while.”

“Three or four years now,” Sam says. “We met on the National Mall, of all places. Figured out pretty quickly that we’re both from here.”

“He told me,” Bucky says, smiling faintly. “Told me a lot about you, actually.”

“I won’t pretend I’m not flattered,” Sam says, closing the drawer, and Bucky huffs, a noise that Sam assumes is a laugh. “What did he tell you?”

“You're Air Force,” Bucky says. “You’re from Harlem, but you’re in Brooklyn now. You were the best man at his wedding. You like to run. You’re in grad school for—hmm—social work, I think. And, the way he tells it, you’re the funniest person in the world.”

“All correct,” Sam says. “Although I don’t appreciate the skepticism about me being funny. I’m objectively hilarious.”

“The jury’s still out here,” Bucky says, and when Sam shoots him a look of mock offense, he smiles. “How long you been out?” 

“Five years,” Sam says. “You?”

“About the same,” Bucky says. “What, Steve didn’t tell you anything about me?”

Sam doesn’t miss the way Bucky’s expression goes a little stiff as he asks, his smile not quite reaching his eyes; must be a fairly loaded question. “Told me your government name’s James Buchanan,” Sam says. “Gotta say, everything else sort of faded into the background after that one.”

Bucky rolls his eyes, but his expression has gone easy again, open. He is almost frustratingly good-looking. “Fuckin’ A,” he says. “Can always count on Steve to keep me humble.”

“Hey, we all need humbling sometimes,” Sam says, shrugging, picking up the money pouch. He glances at the time readout on the cash register; oh-two-hundred on the dot. “I’m going to go put the cash in the safe, and then I’ll lock up. I’ll see you tomorrow, yeah?”

“Yeah,” Bucky says, nodding. “It really was nice meeting you, Sam.”

“Pleasure’s all mine,” Sam says. When he comes back from Peggy’s office, the bar is quiet and empty.

“Sam,” Peggy says, appearing from the back, her expression one of tightly-controlled misery. “Do you remember our deal?”

“That someday I’ll babysit for you and Steve and let you plunder this bar with impunity?” Sam says, giving her a sympathetic look. “Yep.”

“That day,” Peggy says, “cannot come soon enough. I’ve been at the books for ages.” She trudges around the bar, moving more gracelessly than Sam has ever seen her, and sits down on one of the stools. “Steve is one of the most intelligent, thoughtful, and wildly creative people I’ve ever met. But it’s sometimes a wonder he passed grade school maths.”

Sam laughs, and Peggy looks mollified by this. After a beat, she glances around. “Where’s Barnes?” she asks.

“In the stock room with today’s deliveries,” Sam says. “Saving me the heavy lifting, he said.”

“Ah,” Peggy says. “How’s it going, d’you think?”

It’s only Bucky’s fourth day, but it’s also a Thursday; the crowd should be a bit bigger tonight, although still nowhere near the levels of a weekend crowd. “He’s doing fine,” Sam says. “It’s been quiet. Nothing for him to do but stand around and look intimidating.”

“He seems quite good at that,” Peggy says, nodding. “But he also seems sweet. And Steve’s so happy to have him back.”

“Yeah, I can tell,” Sam says. “He’s cool. Almost relentlessly helpful.”

“Good,” Peggy says, nodding briskly. “We could use some of that around here. I know we’ve asked a lot of you lately, Sam, and you don’t know how grateful we are for you.”

Sam grins at her, leaning against the counter on his elbows, as Bucky comes in from the back, toting a cardboard box of Stella Artois for the fridge behind the bar. “You can make it up to me by naming me the godfather of Peggy Junior.”

Peggy rolls her eyes. “I wish you’d stop calling her that,” she says. “It’ll be Margaret Junior.”

Bucky waits politely for an opening. “What else should I bring in?” he asks Sam, and then, “Hi, Peggy.”

“Hello,” Peggy greets, sliding slowly off her stool, one hand on her lower back. “Not to dash off, but I’m dead on my feet. Steve ought to be by later to check on things. You boys behave in my bar.”

“Ma’am, yes, ma’am,” Sam says, and then next to him Bucky gives a little salute. Peggy throws a wink over her shoulder.

“Exactly what I like to hear,” she says.

“So do you really think they’ll make you godfather?” Bucky asks, leaning once again on Sam’s freshly cleaned bartop. Sam gives him a look, and he straightens up, lifting his hands in an apologetic gesture.

“What, you angling for it?” Sam asks, scrubbing the mop vigorously over a particularly sticky spot on the rubber mat behind the bar. Some triple-sec got away from him earlier. “I’ve been campaigning since that kid was barely a twinkle in Steve’s eye. I was born for the role.”

Bucky laughs. “You won’t find any challenge from me,” he says. “Not sure I’m qualified to be anyone’s godfather.”

“Well, barring unfortunate circumstances,” Sam says, “you don’t actually have to do much. It’s a glorified cool uncle position.”

“Cool uncle,” Bucky says, nodding. “So the one that gives ‘em their first beer, basically.”

“I’m not giving a baby a beer,” Sam says.

Bucky snorts, shaking his head. In the past few days, Sam has discovered that he’s quite a bit more personable than he comes across at first. When more than one person is around he clams up a bit, but he doesn’t seem inordinately shy, just reserved. He nearly always hangs around after close until Sam explicitly tells him to go, which is more than Sam can say for anyone else on staff. He’s on the same schedule as Sam, too; always off on Wednesdays and Sundays.

Sam’s off on Wednesdays in particular because Thursday is his long day, a three-hour seminar in the mornings and volunteer work in the afternoon, and he needs the time to do homework and—ideally—get some sleep. He’s vaguely curious as to what Bucky might use his nights off for, but he hasn’t asked yet. Thus far, all he knows about Bucky is that he’s from Brooklyn, ex-military, and he’s currently crashing with a younger sister.

“So,” Sam says. “Things going okay? How are you liking it here?”

“It’s great,” Bucky says. “I’m lucky to be here.”

“Damn skippy,” Sam says. “Really, though. It’s a good place to be.”

“Yeah?” Bucky asks, leaning against the counter again. Sam is momentarily too distracted by the sheer breadth of his shoulders in his black t-shirt to remember to tell him to get off the bar. “How’d you end up working here, by the way? I never asked.”

Sam shrugs. “Needed a job to get me through school,” he says. “I was a barback for a while back in the day, and Peggy gave me the hookup when she and Steve were still circling one another. Been here ever since.” He casually picks up a damp rag and swats it at Bucky. “Get your mitts off the bar.”

Bucky grabs the cloth before it can make contact, hand moving so fast Sam almost doesn’t register the movement. He gives a little tug, freeing the rag from Sam’s grasp, and makes a show of daubing at a nonexistent spot on the countertop. “Sorry, pal,” he says, “I know how neat you like to keep things.”

Sam tamps down on a smile. “I say this as professionally as possible,” he says, “but you are a little shit. Now clear out, it’s too late for horsing around.”

Bucky gently tosses the rag at Sam, who catches it, grimacing when flecks of sudsy water hit him. “Technically,” he says, “it’s early.”

“Technically,” Sam says, “I will shove this rag where the sun doesn’t shine if you don’t take your ass home, Barnes.”

Bucky pulls a face at the idea of this, nose wrinkling, and it is a disconcertingly charming expression on someone who seems to spend the vast majority of their day looking as sober as a judge. “Alright, alright,” he says, “I’ll go. But not because I’m scared or anything.”

“Coward,” Sam says pleasantly, and Bucky makes a rude gesture at him as he heads for the door.

Bucky’s still cleaning the bathrooms by the time Sam and Wanda have finished tidying up behind the bar the following night; Sam sends Wanda off with her tips, reminding her to text him when she gets home safely, and then finds himself lingering, rearranging the dishwasher for no real reason until Bucky comes into the bar proper, lugging the mop bucket behind him.

Sam raises his eyebrows at him expectantly, and Bucky grimaces. “People,” he pronounces, “are disgusting.”

“It’s a Friday night,” Sam says sympathetically, although it is past four on Saturday morning now. Lucky Star stays open later on weekends, of course, and an increased amount of patrons means longer time spent cleaning up after them once they’re gone. “C’est la vie.”

“I think,” Bucky says, “I’ll take a drink. If you don’t mind.”

“Sure,” Sam says, a little surprised. It’s late; they ought to close up and get out of here. But hell, a few more minutes won’t kill him—and it’s a Saturday, after all. “What’ll you have?”

“A beer, I guess,” Bucky says, leaving the mop bucket where it is and approaching the bar. “Whatever you like is fine.”

He sits on a stool and watches as Sam moves to the fridge, thoughtfully selecting an IPA. “You’re a Brooklyn guy,” Sam says, uncapping the bottle and sitting it on the counter in front of Bucky. “A hipster, born and bred.” 

Bucky holds the bottle up briefly at Sam as if to indicate to your good health, then takes a sip, his expression carefully neutral. “It’s—interesting.”

“You don’t have to drink it,” Sam says, amused.

“No, it’s good,” Bucky says quickly, wrapping both hands around the bottle as though worried Sam’s going to take offense. “I’m going to drink it.”

Sam laughs, then shrugs. “Whatever you say, man.”

“You should have one, too,” Bucky suggests. 

“I’m good,” Sam says. “At this hour beer’ll make me sleepy. And cranky.”

Bucky smiles briefly at this, then takes another small sip. “Fair enough. We’ll have a drink sometime though.”

Sam raises his eyebrows at this, but it’s second nature to let his voice become a tease. “You seem confident.”

“I used to be good at this kind of thing,” Bucky says, with a little shrug. Faux-casual; he’s not meeting Sam’s eyes. He lets the fingers of his right hand toy with the neck of the bottle. “I’m trying to get back in the swing of it.”

“And what kind of thing are you talking about?” Sam asks, amused, crossing his arms loosely over his chest, a shameless little part of him enjoying the way Barnes squirms and follows the movement with his eyes.

“Talking to people,” Bucky says, neutral, meeting Sam’s eyes finally. “Making friends.”

“Christ,” Sam says, grinning, watching Bucky’s shoulders relax slightly as he realizes he’s being teased. “It’s a good thing you have your looks, then.”

Sam is aware that he’s a flirt. He’s known and accepted this about himself for a long time; hell, it’s half the reason he’s a good bartender. Over the next week, he quickly draws the conclusion that Barnes, despite the steely eyes and the resting depressed face, is a flirt, too. Or maybe that’s just part of his shtick.

“That looks like good exercise,” Bucky mutters in Sam’s ear over the throb of the music, slipping past him on his way to fetch something from the back as Sam vigorously works a cocktail shaker. Then, on his way back to the floor: “Not that you need it, of course.”

Sidling up to the bar and waving a hand to get Sam’s attention, skin glistening appealingly from sweat thanks to the cramped quarters and the muggy heat outside: “Would you be an angel and get me a water? Thanks.”  

Collecting glasses for Sam in the wee hours of the morning: “How’d you do tonight? Face like that, people must tip at least twenty percent on principle, huh?” 

With regard to the last instance, Sam isn’t sure whether that was meant as a compliment or as some playful bullying; there’s plenty of that going around, too. Within days it becomes a challenge for Sam to flick a bar rag at Bucky and see if he can manage to hang onto it given Bucky’s catlike fucking reflexes. 

Steve seems pleasantly surprised by all of this, although Sam has a feeling he’s watching them both like a hawk, waiting for signs of friction between them. “I gotta say I’m a little surprised you two get along at all,” Steve admits on the Thursday of Bucky’s second week, as he sits at Peggy’s desk shooting the shit while Sam is on break. On the desk beside him is a computer monitor that shows the security camera feeds; if he squints, Sam can make out Wanda behind the bar and Bucky by the door. Vision, another bouncer on duty, is slinking around somewhere, probably near Wanda. “You’re sort of opposites, at least on the surface. But I’ve never had two best friends before, so I didn’t know how it would work out.”

Sam just stares at him. “Sometimes you are just too wholesome to be believed, man,” he says. “You’ve got nothing to worry about. We’re coworkers with a mutual friend.” 

“You like him,” Steve says, rolling his eyes. Then, genuinely: “I’m glad.”

“Barnes is perfectly tolerable,” Sam says, and then, feeling the sudden urge to change the subject, “Here, let me show you this video of Figaro. His dumbass got hung in the blinds again.”

“Another whiskey Coke,” the man in the business suit says, leaning against the bar for support. His cornstraw-blond hair falls in front of his eyes, the product all sweated out. He gives Sam what he probably thinks is a winning grin. “Please.”

“I think you’re good, man,” Sam says, giving him a patient smile. This is the second time they’ve had this conversation in the span of about fifteen minutes. “You didn’t drive here, did you?”

The businessman rolls his eyes, his expression curdling swiftly. “I’m a paying customer,” he says, a distinct note of a whine in his voice. “Where’s the girl? The redhead.”

Wanda is at the other end of the bar, currently being mobbed by Business Professional’s friends; Sam would very much like to go and relieve her. Suits are invariably the worst. Sam would take ten bachelorette parties over one crowd of FiDi tourists. 

“I’ll get you a water, how about that,” Sam says, already reaching for a fresh glass.

In the brief second that Sam turns his attention to getting the guy some ice, he registers movement out of the corner of his eye; instinct kicks in, and he flinches backwards as the half-melted contents of a glass come flying at him. He catches most of it on the chest, thankfully, although he is left blinking liquid out of his eyes for a split second. The glass itself slips out of Business Professional’s hand, flies across the bar, and cracks on the floor behind it.

Sam opens his mouth, eager to tell business bro exactly what the fuck he can do with his Jack and coke, but Bucky seems to materialize out of thin air, grabbing blondie by the back of the collar like an animal taking its young by the scruff of the neck, minus any and all tenderness. He looks at Sam for a split second, frowning, and then hauls the dude away.

Sam wipes his face with a napkin as Wanda hustles over, brushing past him to reach for some Maraschino cherries. “Wow,” she says, raising her voice to be heard, “that was kind of badass.”

She’s right, but Sam doesn’t want to let on. He watches as Bucky drags the guy to the door and then outside, at which point they both disappear from view.

“Not the drink thing, obviously, that was shitty,” Wanda adds. 

“Thank you, Wanda,” Sam says dryly, remembering himself as Bucky reappears and beginning to mop at his damp shirt with the napkin. “I appreciate that.” 

“You alright?” Bucky asks, approaching the bar as he always does once clean-up is done. Wanda and Vision have already left, giggling with one another, far too cheerful for four o’clock in the morning. 

The drink-throwing incident is so long forgotten that it takes Sam a second to remember what he’s talking about. “Oh,” he says, thinking unbidden of Bucky’s expression as he’d looked at Sam, quietly fierce like he needed to assess whether any damage had been done before he threw out the offending party. “Hell, man. My pride’s the only thing that took a hit.” 

“Good,” Bucky says, taking a seat at the bar. “Fuck that guy.”

Sam shrugs. “Fuck that guy,” he agrees. “But don’t work yourself up over him. It’s not the worst I’ve had.”

Bucky frowns. “Do I want to know the worst?”

Sam laughs. “I’ve taken hits,” he says. “I’m also Black, so I’ll let you do the math on that one.”

Bucky winces. “Christ,” he says. “I’m sorry.”

“Not your fault,” Sam says, shrugging. The register’s already closed out, money in the safe, tips accounted for; he’s honestly been good to go for the last five minutes, but he has to wait for Bucky to be done before he can lock up, after all. Still, he doesn’t move. “How’d you get over here so fast, anyway? The glass had barely hit the floor.”

“I was watching,” Bucky says, shrugging, blue eyes on Sam’s.

“Watching who?” Sam teases, eager to get them back to their normal routine. “Me or the customers?”

Bucky blinks, and then, to Sam’s surprise, holds his gaze steady. “You’re a hell of a lot more fun to look at than the customers.”

Sam flushes, hopes he doesn’t grin too stupid. “Sweet-talker,” he says. “Okay, so it wasn’t that serious in the grand scheme of things, but you did come to my rescue tonight. I think I owe you that drink now.”

Bucky looks pleasantly surprised. It could be the standard low-quality bar lighting talking, but his cheeks seem to pinken a bit. “Sure,” he says, and waves a hand at the wall of liquor behind the bar. “Surprise me.”

“Oh,” Sam says, grinning, his internal monologue little more than fuck it, why not. “I didn’t mean here.”

“Sorry,” Sam says, flicking on the light in the kitchenette, casting watery yellow light over the studio apartment, what little domain he has. “It’s a postage stamp, but that’s New York.”

“No, it’s good,” Bucky says, smiling, looking sort of schoolboyish as he stands by the door with his arms at his sides and looks around. “It’s nice. You have a cat?”

“Yeah, that’s Fig,” Sam says, watching as the cat in question slinks out from under the bed in the corner, takes one look at Bucky, and disappears back into the shadows. “Figaro if you’re nasty. You’re not allergic, are you?”

Bucky shakes his head, turning his cheerful attention to the framed photos on the wall by the door—a collection of childhood and family Polaroids—as Sam fetches a bottle of vodka. Sam finds this behavior odd but charming—a fairly handy summation of how he finds Barnes to be in general, actually. 

Bucky must feel himself being scrutinized, because he glances over and gives Sam a wry look. “C’mon, man, I’m sleeping on my sister’s couch,” he says. “My sister’s boyfriend’s couch, if you want to get technical about it. I miss having even this much space to myself.”

“You do love to get technical,” Sam says. “Well, it’s your lucky day. I have a fresh carton of juice.”

“Juice,” Bucky says, nodding slowly. “Is that a euphemism?”

“Nope,” Sam says. “It’s orange-mango. It’s organic.”

A screwdriver is perhaps not the most obvious choice for this hour, but it’s damn near dawn and Sam has been making cocktails all night. Besides, a glass of juice in the morning is good for the soul. He pours them both a healthy serving and practically has to coerce Bucky to take a seat on the futon, otherwise known as the only real place to sit.

It’s strange, Sam realizes as he sits down next to Bucky, not having a thick slab of wood between them. There’s a polite distance between them, but Bucky is still in his apartment, at five o’clock in the morning, just hanging out. Like coworkers do, Sam supposes, only not in his apartment at five A.M. Sam wonders frantically if he should put something on, a show or some music, but swiftly decides against it, given the shared-seating situation.

“You don’t have—class, or anything, in the morning?” Bucky asks. “As in, a few hours from now?”

Sam shrugs. “Fridays aren’t bad,” he says. “I’ve got a seminar at eleven, then internship for a couple hours in the afternoon.”

“Right,” Bucky says, glancing at him briefly, nodding. “At the VA.”

“Yeah,” Sam says, watching as Bucky drops his gaze, looking instead toward the bed, maybe for Figaro. He’s thought, more than once, of asking Bucky if he’s ever been to the VA—any VA—but he hasn’t. Not everyone takes well to a question like that from a social worker. “Drink your juice, man.”

Bucky does, and then licks his bottom lip afterwards, chasing the flavor in a way that Sam has to look away from. “Goddamn,” he says. “That’s some good fuckin’ juice.”

Sam laughs. “Cheap vodka, expensive juice,” he says. “That’s the secret.”

Bucky takes another sip, then says, “Eleven. That’s not a lot of time to sleep. If I’m imposing—”

“I don’t need a lot of sleep,” Sam says. “You can hang out, Barnes, it’s fine.” 

Figaro makes another appearance then, sticking his little white head out from under the bed to glower at them, and Bucky points at him to direct Sam's attention. “Oh, I’m sorry,” Sam says. “Are we disturbing your slumber, my prince?”

Bucky laughs quietly, but it’s enough to startle Fig into fleeing again. “I think I’d like to get a cat someday,” he says, his expression softening slightly. “We had them growing up.”

“They’re little goblins,” Sam says.

“He doesn’t look like a little goblin.”

“Yeah, well, you haven’t been properly introduced,” Sam says, “by which I mean he hasn’t pissed in your only pair of dress shoes.”

“Good thing I don’t own any dress shoes,” Bucky says, draining his glass. Sam watches his adam’s apple bob as he swallows, then takes a sip of his own juice.

“Nah, you just wear those shit-kicking boots all the time,” Sam says, nodding at Barnes’s scuffed, heavy-soled boots, set wide apart on the laminate. “Tell me you planted one of them in Knockoff Gordon Gekko’s ass.”

Bucky smiles wryly. “I didn’t,” he says, looking over at Sam. “I figured you’d disapprove.”

“I would’ve,” Sam admits. 

“Well, I guess it’s the thought that counts.”

Sam can’t even blame his next question on a mixed drink; he’s barely had a sip, and it’s not that damn strong. “Don’t think I’ve forgotten what you said earlier,” he says. “You were, what, busy admiring the gun show when all this happened? I know you like it when I use the shaker.” 

Bucky grins. “I like the way you look all the time.”

Sam flushes, skin tingling, pleased; he probably ought to be goddamned ashamed of himself, but he’s just tired enough after a long-ass day, feeling slap-happy and a little reckless. The fact that this is a bad idea in more ways than one is something he’ll have to address at a later date. “You are a sweet-talker,” he says. “When you want to be, at least.”

“It’s not sweet-talk if I mean it,” Bucky says, and he’s not really smirking anymore, but his expression is still open, mostly relaxed, as he looks at Sam. He doesn’t flinch when Sam leans in to kiss him, just closes his eyes, lashes fluttering delicately over his cheekbones.

The kiss is chaste, fairly brief; Sam might be feeling reckless, but not that damn reckless. He pulls away, opens his eyes, and watches as Bucky opens his eyes, too. He regards Sam evenly, almost expectantly, for just long enough that Sam feels the first frisson of panic run through him.

“Sorry,” he says. “If that was—not something you were interested in.”

Bucky grins, goofy and handsome, and some part of Sam thinks, oh, god. “‘Interested’ ain’t the word.”

Sam rolls his eyes, fully expecting to be kissed again, but Bucky doesn’t move, lingering for long enough that Sam asks, “Something wrong with my face?”

“No,” Bucky says. “You just look tired, is all.”

Sam laughs. “Of course I’m tired. Are you not?”

Bucky shrugs, then nudges Sam with his elbow. “I’ll go,” he says. “You get some sleep.”

Sam opens his mouth to protest, then closes it. “Sure,” he says instead. “Probably a good idea.”

Bucky stands, making for the door, and Sam sees him to it; it’s not a long trip. “See you tomorrow. Shit. See you later,” Sam says.

Bucky smiles, touches his temple in a loose, easy salute, and leaves; Sam stands by the door for a moment after he’s left, hand resting on the deadbolt, sort of—gobsmacked.

Figaro meows from near the bed.

“Yes, he’s gone,” Sam says. Another meow, this one rather emphatic. “I know it’s breakfast time, you little monster.”

Barnes shows up to work that evening with all of his hair cut off.

Well, not all of it—definitely most of it. It’s short on the sides, and sort of messy on top; spiky, like he’s run his fingers through it a few too many times. He walks in, sees both Sam and Steve gawking at him from the bar, and grimaces at them.

“You got a haircut,” Steve says.

“20/20 vision on that one, Steve,” Bucky replies, approaching reluctantly.

Val, at her usual booth in the corner, takes notice of this conversation, and wolf-whistles loudly. Bucky gives her a sheepish wave of acknowledgment. “Go ahead,” he says, reaching the bar. “Let it all out. Rebecca wouldn’t let me wear a hat.”

“You can’t wear a hat forever,” Steve says, grinning. “I’m just messing with you. It looks nice.”

“Thanks, man,” Bucky says, but his eyes are on Sam, his expression carefully neutral. “Sam?”

There’s absolutely nothing to indicate that barely thirteen hours ago, Bucky was in Sam’s apartment, or that Sam was kissing him on the mouth in said apartment; his hair having abruptly been lopped off throws Sam strangely off-kilter. It doesn’t look bad, of course—quite the opposite. Bucky has one of those faces. It’s charming; he looks suddenly more open and boyish, less like he’s trying to burrow down and hide behind his shaggy hair and plain henley t-shirts. 

“It looks nice,” Sam says, deadpan. “Shame about the ears, though.”

Bucky reaches instinctively for his ears, frowning, and Steve rolls his eyes. “He’s screwing with you,” he says. Then: “I’m sure nobody will notice.” 

“My ears are fine,” Bucky says, giving them both dirty looks, though he follows it up with a grin.

Later, after Steve has left, Sam passes Bucky, on break in the back, as he heads to the stock-room. “My sister made me do it,” Bucky calls after him from the hallway. “My hair. She said it’d make me look more like my old self. I’ve kept it long for—a while.”

Sam glances over his shoulder through the open stockroom door as he rummages for the bottle he needs. Bucky is leaning against the wall in the hallway, phone in hand, watching Sam with what he presumably thinks is a casual expression.

“Your old self isn’t half bad,” Sam says, leaving the stockroom with a fresh bottle of Tito’s. “I’ll tell you how I really feel about it later, if you want.”

“. . . Okay,” Bucky says.

Sam waits until he’s about to pass Bucky to say, “If you want to come back to my place, I mean.”

“Oh,” Bucky says, eyes widening briefly, but Sam keeps moving back towards the front of the building, a man on a mission.

“Let me know,” Sam calls back casually, and feels Bucky’s eyes on him until he’s out of sight.

It doesn’t take long for Sam to figure out that Barnes is into terms of endearment. There’s the appreciative shit, baby, when Sam takes off his shirt, flattering but reasonable; the sigh of sweetheart when Sam takes him in his mouth; then, most egregious of all, fuck, darlin’, more breath than anything else, as Sam bottoms out on Bucky’s dick.

Sam laughs. “Darlin’,” he repeats. “What, you getting soft on me?”

Bucky uses his hold on Sam’s hips to his advantage, pulling down and thrusting upwards, and the laugh that Sam lets out now is breathless and pleased. “Not hardly.”

In the dingy blue light of predawn, Sam has a good view of Bucky under him, his skin pale and shiny with sweat even with Sam’s A/C unit on full blast. After a few minutes at a vigorous pace, his thighs burning and his breaths coming shorter, Sam has to lean forward, planting his hands lightly on Bucky’s chest. His right hand brushes over bumpy scar tissue near where chest becomes shoulder. A moment later, Bucky tuts softly and turns them over. The movement is so smooth Sam doesn’t even think to protest—Bucky’s left hand even comes up, the material warmer and sturdier than Sam would’ve expected, and cradles the back of Sam’s neck as Bucky bears him down.

This is good, even better; Sam lets his head loll back, panting into the air as he’s fucked with sharp, steady thrusts. Then Bucky’s mouth is on his neck. “How long’s it been?” Bucky mumbles. “Huh?”

This isn’t the craziest thing Sam’s been asked in the middle of sex, but it makes him huff a laugh. “What, you taking down a history?”

“I meant,” Bucky says, frustratingly not that out of breath despite the snap of his hips, “how long’s it been since someone took care of you. The way you need.” 

Sam lifts his head slightly, and Bucky does, too, his gaze flicking from Sam’s eyes to his mouth and back. Sam tries to laugh again, but Bucky’s eyes are serious. “Shit, I don’t need taking—taking care of.”

“Sure you do, honey,” Bucky says, hitching one of Sam’s legs up higher around his waist, and the slight difference in angle is enough to make Sam forget the compulsive need to argue, enough to make him go slack again and say mindlessly to the ceiling, shit, yes, yes please.

After Sam comes, Bucky pulls out, gentlemanlike, and Sam has enough oxytocin pumping through him to toss the condom vaguely aside and kiss Bucky while he jerks him off, pulling back only to watch the sweet way his brows draw together when he closes his eyes and comes.

“Shit,” Bucky says, eyes fluttering open. “I haven’t done that in a long time.”

“What?” Sam says, pulling his sticky hand away, already too drowsy to feel the urge to do much about it. “Had sex? Or an orgasm?”

He’s teasing, but Bucky doesn’t answer, and Sam forces his heavy eyelids open a little wider. “No, seriously.”

Bucky just shakes his head, amused. “You’re slurring your words,” he says. “I guess I should be flattered.”

“Don’t get all big-headed about it,” Sam says, as Bucky shifts away, moving toward the edge of the admittedly narrow bed. Sam watches through half-open eyes as Bucky moves naked around the apartment, locating and tossing the condom, briefly checking his phone, then opening the bathroom door—Sam hears him say “oh, hey buddy” to Figaro, who has been sequestered in there with the cat tree for his own good—before returning with a wet washcloth. He even goes so far as to wipe at Sam’s hand for him, although Sam bats him away and says, “I’m tired, not dead.” 

He needs to shower, and will regret it if he doesn’t. But it’s a Saturday, meaning for once Sam has nowhere to be until mid-afternoon. He has the willpower only to fish around on the bed for his boxers, fully prepared to just roll over and go to sleep regardless of what Bucky plans on doing. Then Bucky starts getting dressed.

Noticing Sam’s attention, Bucky grimaces apologetically. “My sister,” he says. “She texted asking where I am. I’m usually back before either of them wake up. I don’t want to worry her.”

From anyone else Sam would assume this was a carefully crafted excuse, but Bucky doesn’t seem like the type; besides, he looks visibly pained about it. “No worries,” Sam says, as Fig, newly freed, jumps on the bed near his feet, giving Bucky a leary stare. “Tell her I said hi.”

Bucky snorts. “I’ll do that,” he says. “You want me to pull the curtains?”

“Probably should’ve done that before you walked around with your dick out,” Sam hums, closing his eyes, and Bucky laughs. “Thanks.”

Blackout curtains are, in Sam’s opinion, an essential purchase for anyone who works nights; the darkness that falls when Bucky closes them is swift and comforting. He finishes dressing in the dark, stumbling once with a muttered shit sorry, and then Sam hears him move for the door.

“See you around,” Bucky says, and Sam mmhmms in response. There’s a click, probably Bucky locking the door behind himself, and then the door shuts. Sam is dimly aware that he’ll probably be embarrassed about this later, most likely the next time he has to see Barnes. For now, he lets Figaro curl into the crook of his arm and falls more soundly asleep than he has in recent memory.

The subway ride to Harlem, where he goes every Saturday to volunteer at the VA, is decently lengthy; still, Sam spends the majority of it debating what to say in a text message to Bucky. 

He has Bucky’s number by virtue of them both being in a group message of Lucky Star employees, the conversation of which mostly comprises of memes from the twenty-somethings on staff. Sam doesn’t have it in him to not double-text; it just feels more natural that way. He finally settles on:

Hey. Last night was fun.

Are we in mutual agreement to not mention it to Steve?

There’s a pause of about two minutes, during which time Sam attempts to check Twitter but can’t, due to absolutely garbage WiFi. Then, Bucky responds: this is sam right

Of course it’s Sam. Who the hell else would it be.

i’m just messing with you, Bucky writes back, followed by a :). just out of curiosity, does steve not know?

That I’m bi? He knows.

like knows or *knows*

This makes Sam laugh despite himself; he muffles it behind a hand, although people laughing openly at their phones—or even at nothing at all—is hardly enough to raise an eyebrow on the train. Not in the Biblical sense, he sends back. That’s disgusting.

worth asking, Bucky says. you think he’d be weird about it?

Sam doesn’t think it would be wise to point out that as Steve’s friends, they’re sort of honor-bound not to fuck, at least not without advance notice. Besides, it’s less that Steve will be weird—although that is true—and more that he might actually be really encouraging about it, and Sam’s not sure he can handle that right now. He’s a Cancer. He can’t help but make everything a thing.

if you say so, Bucky says. There’s a little pause, and then: i think i’m a pisces. what does that mean?

Oh Jesus. Of course you are.

Sam reaches his stop, and by the time he’s surface-level and checks his phone again, Bucky has sent:

is it bad

you can tell me i promise i won’t be a pisces about it


Things at work are, shockingly, not weird. At all. Which is, of course, what allows Sam to convince himself it’s totally fine to invite Bucky over after close once again.

This isn’t something Sam does. He can’t remember the last time he had casual sex, let alone casual sex with someone he has to interact with in a professional capacity. The fact that it is objectively great casual sex, the kind of sex that actually manages to counteract Sam’s tendency toward insomnia, is apparently just persuasive enough to make him forget—or at least ignore—his own better judgement.

He only invites Bucky over twice the following week, mostly because he does have other obligations and can’t really afford to screw around during the few hours he has available to sleep during the week. Nobody at work seems to notice anything has changed—if, really, anything substantial has changed—other than maybe Peggy, who Sam catches giving him a hard stare as she’s leaving one evening.

“You okay?” he asks, eyeing her.

“No,” she says, rather breezily for someone whose stomach has swollen to roughly the size of a well-inflated basketball. “My entire body has been turned against me. Anyway, you’ve got quite a spot.” She taps a place on her own neck with one shiny red fingernail. “I’d offer you some concealer, but I’m afraid we aren’t a match. Might I suggest a cold spoon?” 

Sam watches her go, dumbfounded, and later says to Bucky, “What are you, a fucking vampire?”

He expects confusion, but Bucky seems to know exactly what he’s talking about. He shrugs and grins, unrepentant. “I’ll try to keep it in mind next time.”

Next time,” Sam says, incredulous. “Cocky son-of-a-bitch.”

There is, of course, a next time.

The following Friday, Bucky comes up to Sam at the bar at the start of their shift, looking nervous. Sam just raises an eyebrow at him, in the middle of pouring a dark and stormy. “Something up?” he asks.

He hasn’t asked Bucky over in a few days, and they’ve kept their interactions at work to a normal level. He’s honestly not sure what to expect, but it’s not for Bucky to blurt, “My sister’s coming tonight. She wants to see the place.”

Sam blinks. “Okay,” he says, reaching for a lime wedge. “Cool.”

He leaves Bucky standing there in order to take the customer her drink, but Bucky stays where he is, so Sam returns to him. “She might want to meet you,” Bucky says, reaching up to tuck a lock of hair behind his ear and only seeming to remember at the last second that the hair is no longer shaggy enough to do so. “Just so you know.”

“That’s fine,” Sam says, smiling, sort of confused. “I am, after all, a delight.”

Bucky smiles at that, and doesn’t argue. “Steve still in the back?”

Sam nods. “She’ll want to see him, too,” Bucky says, patting the countertop once with the flat of his palm and then moving away, looping around the bar and heading for the back door. “He hasn’t seen her since she was a kid. Hell, he’s grown more than she has.”

“Sure, man,” Sam says, watching him go. 

He doesn’t mind the idea of meeting Rebecca, although he’s mildly uncomfortable at the idea of Bucky’s kid sister possibly knowing he’s had sex with her brother. It’s just—a little awkward, is all.

Rebecca shows up at a quarter till ten, and Sam knows it’s her purely by the enthusiasm on her face when she catches his attention from the other side of the bar. She’s tall, dark-haired, lean, wearing a casual black dress. “Hey!” she says, raising her voice to counteract a thrum of bass from the speakers. “Are you Sam?”

“Not to be corny,” Sam says, “but Sam I am.” 

She laughs, and her resemblance to Bucky solidifies; they have matching toothy grins. It’s hard to tell in the bar, but her eyes are probably the same shade of gray-blue. “You must be Rebecca.”

“My reputation precedes me,” she says. She keeps smiling at him, quite openly, and Sam thinks if she doesn’t know, she must suspect something. Either that, or she’s an extremely smile-y person, and from what Sam’s heard about Bucky’s spunky, Doc Martens-wearing little sister, he doesn’t get that impression. “Could I get a PBR?”

“Sure thing,” Sam says. “Don’t tell Steve, but it’s on the house. Wait, are you old enough to be in here?”

Rebecca purses her lips, a possibly unconscious habit she shares with Bucky. “I’m twenty-five,” she shouts over a burst of laughter nearby. “And I will kick my brother’s ass if he’s told anyone otherwise.”

Sam grins and fetches her a beer, and doesn’t charge her; she drops a twenty in the tip jar when she thinks he isn’t looking. There are several other people waiting up and down the bar, but Wanda can handle it for now. Sam can practically feel Bucky’s eyes on him from somewhere near the front door. It feels weirdly imperative to let Bucky see this interaction take place, if only to calm his nerves.

“Your brother seems to like it here,” Sam says.

“Oh, he loves it,” Rebecca says. “It’s been really good for him. I think. I haven’t—” Someone bumps past her from behind, and she shoots them a dirty look that goes unnoticed. “I don’t know. It’s just—he’s doing well.”

It’s hard to gauge tone in a crowded bar, but there’s an edge of hesitation in her expression, the crease of the brow people get when they’re talking about someone they worry over. Steve once said it was like Bucky had fallen off the face of the earth a few years ago; Sam can only assume that was the case for his family, too.

“Good,” Sam says. “I’m glad to hear it.”

Rebecca smiles at him again, pleased. “Bucky told me you guys have hung out,” she says. “I’m glad he’s making friends here.”

The guy standing next to Rebecca is outright waving to get Sam’s attention, so Sam shoots him a quelling look and says, “Bucky told me you wanted to talk to Steve—come around the bar.”

Rebecca does, looking slightly startled, and Sam sends her in the back with instructions on where to find Steve. As he fetches the waver his damn beer, Sam scans the crowd for Bucky, but he’s tied up with some disturbance at the door, and Sam gets distracted as a slow song triggers another rush on the bar. When he remembers to look again, though, he thinks Bucky looks alright. Comfortable—smiling, even, as he looks around the bar, his arms crossed loosely over his chest instead of tightly, nervously. He looks like he belongs.

Sam has Bucky over again after their Saturday shift; Sundays are already objectively the best days for sex, but they’re made even better by the fact that Sam only has schoolwork to worry about today. Not to mention that Bucky must be worried about losing his appeal, or else he’s just been missing this, because he throws himself into making Sam come like he has a goddamn score to settle. 

He’s so enthusiastic about it he’s almost manic, taking Sam’s dick far enough down to choke, pulling up to cough, then trying again. Sam eventually takes him lightly by the back of the neck and holds him in place, only letting go when he grits out “gonna come,” but Bucky just moans and goes for it all over again.

Afterwards, Sam is pleasantly drowsy as usual and expects Bucky to do his bit, which is to sheepishly check his phone and mutter something less than kind about his sister, only to obediently skedaddle. This time, though, Bucky just rolls over in bed and stays there, his bare thigh and elbow brushing Sam’s. “D’you mind if I stick around?” he asks. “I told Becky I probably wouldn’t be home.”

Sam raises an eyebrow at him. “How scandalous,” he says. “You’re going to have to do a walk of shame later in front of your baby sister.”

Bucky rolls his eyes. “She’s seen worse,” he says. “Is that a yes?”

“Sure,” Sam says, yawning.

Bucky smiles at him, pleased, and then says, “We should, uh, probably eat something.” Practically on cue, his stomach growls audibly.

“Worked up an appetite, huh,” Sam says dryly, but Bucky’s right; as much as he wants nothing more than to roll over and go to sleep, he’ll wake up in a few hours cranky and starving. Besides, it’s Sunday. There’s time. “I’ve got leftover Chinese in the fridge if you’re cool with that.”

“Breakfast of champions,” Bucky says. When Sam doesn’t move, he huffs, sort of fondly, and gets up, putting on his boxers and padding barefoot to the kitchenette.

Sam gets up to pee, rinse out his mouth, and free Figaro from his prison. Then he fetches them both some juice, figuring that Bucky has probably earned the good stuff.

They eat on Sam’s bed—“ordinarily, I wouldn’t, but these sheets have to go anyway”—lounging comfortably and eating noodles straight from the carton. 

Bucky makes a hopeful pss-pss-pss sound at Figaro, who only takes serious interest once Bucky holds out a piece of pork. “Do not feed him that,” Sam says, eyeing them. “It’s not good for him.”

“Poor guy,” Bucky says to the cat, withdrawing the offering. “Can’t get away with anything, huh?” He holds his hand out again, empty this time, and Figaro approaches enough to sniff thoughtfully at the sheen of grease on Bucky’s thumb and forefinger before losing interest.

“Oh, he’s spoiled rotten,” Sam says. “He just wants to act brand new around company.”

Bucky smiles. “Nah, he’s alright,” he says, popping the piece of meat in his mouth. “He’s just trying to figure me out, s’all.”

Sam does not say what he thinks, which is, yeah, him and me both. Instead he says, “You know what’s really sexy? Not talking with food in your mouth.”

Sam wakes at mid-afternoon, groggy and hot, though he’s barely dressed; Bucky puts off heat like a damn furnace, and Sam’s bed is hardly spacious enough for one grown man to sprawl out, let alone two. He can feel Bucky’s prosthetic brushing his back, and is vaguely surprised he slept with it on. Sam wouldn’t mind, of course, but figures it’s possible Bucky is uncomfortable with taking it off around others. 

After a minute or two, he rolls over, glancing through half-lidded eyes at Bucky, who is, surprisingly, wide awake. Sam opens his eyes further, yawning, and then he realizes that something is wrong.

Bucky isn’t exactly rigid, but his body isn’t relaxed, either. He’s lying still, on his back, with his arms neat at his sides and his gaze, unfocused and weirdly gentle, fixed on the ceiling. If he notices Sam is awake, he doesn’t acknowledge it.

Sam sits up slightly. “Barnes,” he says. He clears his throat. “Bucky?”

Bucky’s eyes flick toward him—a good sign, Sam thinks, slipping into medic mode almost unconsciously. It’s difficult to tell with the curtains blocking out almost all light, save for a thin sliver of gray-white around the edge of the window, but Bucky’s pupils aren’t abnormally dilated. Another good sign.

“You okay?” Sam asks. “You know where you are?”

Bucky licks his lips with a dry tongue. His voice, when he speaks, is slightly hoarse, but steady, calm. “Yeah,” he says, keeping his eyes on Sam. “I’m okay, Sam. Just dreaming.”

“I’m going to get up,” Sam says. “Let me get you some water.”

Bucky nods, and Sam gingerly clambers out of bed, going to the kitchenette to fetch a cool bottle from the fridge. He takes the cap off with a soft crack and brings the bottle back to the bed. “Can you sit up?” he asks, but Bucky is already lifting up on his elbows without needing to be told. He accepts the bottle from Sam and takes a long pull, his gaze drifting around the apartment with vague interest.

Sam is quiet for a moment, standing next to the bed and watching Bucky calmly sip water. Then he asks, “Can you talk to me?”

“Come back to bed,” Bucky says. “Please.”

Sam does, but not before disturbing Figaro, gently lifting him from the foot of the bed and carrying him over to the futon before returning. Best not to risk a cat-related disturbance right now. Sam sits back down on his side of the bed and waits.

It takes a few minutes, and a whole bottle of water, but after a while Bucky seems a bit more alert. His expression when he glances over at Sam has gone from one of vague indifference to tightly-controlled worry. The first stage of shame. “Sorry,” he says. “I have—dreams, sometimes. They don’t always end right when I wake up.”

“Where’d you go?” Sam asks. “If you don’t mind me asking.”

Bucky sits up fully, bending his legs and resting his arms on his knees. His body is muscular and strong, but he makes himself smaller this way; whether unconsciously or on purpose, Sam can’t tell yet. “I don’t know,” he says. “The geography, I mean. I don’t know exactly where.”

Sam nods, though he doesn’t quite understand. He didn’t mean the question literally, but Bucky seems to have taken it that way. “Do you want to talk about it?”

Bucky sighs. “Hell, sweetheart,” he says, giving Sam another one of those kicked-dog looks. “You don’t want to be my therapist.”

“No,” Sam agrees. “That’d be pretty shitty of me, given the, ah, circumstances.” He gestures vaguely between them, trying to indicate their mutual half-nakedness, and is gratified when Bucky gives him a slight smile, even if it does seem forced. “But I’m still a pretty good listener.”

Bucky ruminates on this for a few seconds, looking into the middle distance. Outside, a siren passes by, very close; the A/C unit makes a low rattling noise. Sam is about to get up and crack the curtains for some light when Bucky says, “I can’t believe you haven’t asked about the arm.” He pauses, then corrects himself: “My arm.”

“Seemed like something you’d mention if and when you wanted to mention it,” Sam says. He’s seen the arm in question in better light; it’s made of sturdy black metal and carbon fiber, with a faint sheen to it. It’s surprisingly manipulable, almost like flesh and bone—Sam’s never seen anything quite like it before.

“Nothing to mention,” Bucky says. “I lost it in an explosion that I can’t really remember. The government hooked me up with this thing. Sort of an apology gift.”

“While you were overseas?”

“Yeah,” Bucky says. “Look—if I tell you anything more than that, we’re into classified shit. I don’t give a fuck, because it’s my classified shit, but you—you might. And I wouldn’t put that on you, Sam.”

His eyes are wide and fervent as he looks at Sam in the semi-darkness. The lighting, given the time of day Sam knows it to be, gives the conversation a surreal feel, an out-of-time quality that makes Bucky’s earlier—what? dissociation, maybe?—seem rather reasonable. “Tell me what you’re comfortable with,” Sam says. “I’ll tell you to stop if I think you should.”

Bucky nods, a little jerkily. “That’s the thing,” he says. “There’s no—no real story. Not one that makes any sense, at least.” He pauses. “You remember a few years back, when all that shit was in the news about Hydra?”

It’s pretty impossible not to remember. Sam almost puts a stop to this here and now; if Bucky’s about to say he’s Hydra, that’s officially something Sam wants no part of whatsoever. He tries not to tense up, but he can tell Bucky notices. “It’s not like that,” Bucky says quickly, firmly. “I wasn’t one of them. They tortured me, took my brains out and played with them, it felt like, but I would never.”

Sam stays quiet, shocked, and Bucky says, “The official word is that I went AWOL after a bombing in Sokovia, but really they took me—I was the only one left to take, and even I was missing a piece.” He grimaces briefly. “I only remember bits and pieces. Bits and pieces of the next few months, actually. Then one day I remember being free, loose somewhere in Eastern Europe with a stump instead of an arm, and I don’t know how I got there, and the folks in charge don’t know how either.” Bucky shrugs. “Whether Hydra let me go or I got out is anyone’s guess.”

“Jesus,” Sam says, after a minute. “How long ago was all this?”

“Five years ago,” Bucky says. “So they tell me. I wasn’t—ah—functional for a lot of that time. Not in a traditional sense, at least.”

“Talk straight with me,” Sam says, as kindly as he can. “I can handle it.”

“They call it a fugue state,” Bucky says. “It’s a—well. You have a psychology degree, don’t you?”

Sam does. “How long did it last?”

“It was on and off for two years, at least,” Bucky says. He seems calmer now, the look in his eyes far away, but not necessarily in a bad way; he looks like he’s resigned himself to having this conversation. “There are periods I remember and periods I just don’t. What Hydra did to me was—effective. Then the feds got a hold of me, and they kept me under pretty tight lock and key for about a year before they let me go. The jury’s still out on what they did to me.”

Sam swallows. This is—a lot more than what he was expecting. The stuff of nightmares, of Dark Web government conspiracy shit. Sam almost can’t believe that he believes it, but there is a note of grim truth to Bucky’s voice that he isn’t inclined to argue with.

Bucky continues, “But it did help. I haven’t lost time in years. Now it’s just run-of-the-mill PTSD.” He gives a wry, unhumorous smile. “Guess you see a lot of that, in your line of work.”

“I do,” Sam says. “The group I lead is full of people who deal with it every day.”

Bucky looks over at him for a moment, his expression very serious, and despite everything Bucky’s told him, for a fleeting, unsettling instant Sam feels like the vulnerable one here. “I thought you might take it like this,” Bucky says. Then, he amends, “I hoped. You don’t judge.”

“That’s not true,” Sam says. “I judge people who’ve hurt other people, done things that are wrong. You, to my knowledge, haven’t done anything wrong.”

Bucky shrugs. “That I know of,” he says, with that wry pull to his mouth again. “I wish it was that black and white, baby, I really do.”

“Are you seeing anyone?” Sam asks. Then, swiftly: “As in, a counselor. Doctor. Something like that.”

“Not for a while, no,” Bucky says. “Haven’t settled anywhere in a long time. But I’ve been doing okay lately. I only wake up like that—once, maybe twice a week. Might be like that for the rest of my life. But it could be worse.” 

“Well,” Sam says, “you know where my group meets. If you’re ever in the neighborhood.”

“I’ve thought about it,” Bucky admits. “Steve’s offered to go with me probably a dozen times.”

“He comes sometimes. Once a month, maybe. Does he know?”

Bucky grimaces slightly. “He knows I wasn’t on a pleasure cruise,” he says. “He’s always known that, I think. I told him about Hydra. That’s all. One day I’ll tell him everything, but—he’s got a lot on his plate right now, and he’s spent enough of his life worrying about me as it is.”

“Tell him when you’re ready,” Sam says, nodding. “He’ll understand. I don’t know a single vet who hasn’t had their struggles, coming home, and you’ve been through—more than most.”

“Yeah?” Bucky says, looking at Sam briefly. He looks sort of hopeful, like he thinks Sam is going to offer up a specific, profound example, but Sam generally likes a bit of warning before he has to make some big speech.

Quiet falls for a moment. Bucky is still sitting with his legs folded up, and his face in profile is a study in neutrality. A front, Sam is sure, but a part of him empathizes deeply. “This is the part where you ask me to leave,” Bucky says. “If you want to. You don’t have to be afraid to do it.”

This is said so bluntly, downright matter-of-fact, that Sam lets out an incredulous noise. “What, you think I’m scared?” he asks. “Look, man, I was more worried you were going to rob me or something the first time I brought you over here than I am afraid of anything now.”

Bucky gives him a surprised look. “Rob you?” he says. “Jesus.”

“No offense, of course,” Sam says dryly. “But you have been rocking the whole beautifully wounded, ‘just blew into town, might be down for some sketchy shit’ thing.”

This earns him a laugh, a real, genuine one from the gut. “Nah,” Bucky says, when he’s quieted down. “I’m here to stay, I think.”

“Good,” Sam says, and means it. “That’s good.”

The look Bucky gives him is unaccountably fond. “Sometimes I feel like I dreamed you up,” he says, suddenly, with a hint of shyness in the twist of his mouth. “They’re not all bad. My dreams.”

Sam raises his eyebrows, and Bucky says, “I’m serious. You’re the first person I’ve been—excited to meet. In a long time.”

“Excited is one word for it,” Sam says.

Bucky rolls his eyes. “Sure, that, too,” he says. He sounds a little wistful when he adds, “You were wearing a burgundy polo the day we met. The one that doesn’t fit your arms at all.”

Sam feels vaguely flushed despite himself, and he refuses to allow his brain to engage critically with what Bucky’s saying—only to appreciate the compliment. “I’m glad you find my biceps so compelling.”

“That’s one word for it,” Bucky returns, and Sam laughs, wildly relieved to be back on familiar ground. Catharsis is important, and he’s glad he finally has some understanding of who Barnes is and where he’s been, what he’s been through—but it feels good to laugh about something normal, something silly. 

Bucky’s expression, though, stays a little soft. “I do mean it, Sam. Thank you.”

“You don’t have to thank me,” Sam says. “All I did was listen.”

Bucky looks at him sort of dopily, and something clenches tight in Sam’s chest. “Yeah, and you didn’t have to.”

“Bucky,” Sam says. “Remember when we talked about you not being a Pisces about all this?” 

Bucky laughs again, a guffaw that makes Fig sit up on the couch, alarmed. “God, you fuckin’ asshole. Get over here.”

Sam laughs, lets Bucky pull him close and kiss him, and even forgets to kick Figaro out. For a while, he even forgets that, while he doesn’t think he ought to be afraid of Bucky—who seems, if anything, to be more of a danger to himself than anyone else—he does think he ought to be cautious. 

Of what—or of whom—he’s less clear on. But it’s nice to forget for a while.

It takes a few days. But Bucky shows up.

It’s Wednesday afternoon, actually, the one weekday Sam won’t see him; the meeting is about to start, and Sam is chatting with Amanda, one of his regulars, when he glances over and sees that someone has taken a chair at the back of the group, someone with familiar broad shoulders and a face half-hidden by a baseball cap pulled low.

Sam doesn’t say anything, hesitant to draw attention to Bucky in a room full of people that to him are strangers, but he waits for Bucky to look up and gives him a little wave. Bucky nods, smiling faintly, and then looks back down at his phone.

The meeting is a quiet one; Amanda does most of the talking today, but there are stretches where nobody has much to share, so they shoot the shit for a while. Sam doesn’t expect Bucky to talk—what could he possibly say in open discussion, given the circumstances—but he seems engaged, listening attentively, his expression thoughtful. Sam catches Bucky’s eye more than once; it’s not like he’s staring, but he is as watchful as ever, his expression almost expectant.

When the meeting ends, Bucky lingers, waiting as Sam makes polite conversation with a couple regulars, Jason and Kira. Once they clear out, though, he draws close, rubbing his right hand at the back of his neck. “Hey,” he says, sort of sheepishly, coming to a stop about five feet away from where Sam is gathering up his things. “I hope I didn’t—surprise you.”

“I knew you couldn’t stay away,” Sam says. He gestures around the room, with its flickery fluorescent lighting and graying tile floors, dozens of mismatched chairs loosely gathered around the center of the room. “This is the place to be, after all.”

Bucky smiles. “Do you ever talk?” he asks, after a beat. “In these meetings.”

Sam raises his eyebrows. “You just saw me lead one.”

“You know what I mean,” Bucky says, looking at him askance. He’s out of his element here, it’s clear; a setting like this, informal group therapy, might even remind him of a period in his life he’d like to forget. But he’s here.

Sam does know what he means. “Sometimes,” he says. “But I do this almost every day. Doesn’t seem fair to take up a lot of these people’s time, since most folks can only make it once a week, if that.”

“Right,” Bucky says, nodding. “So you’re a counselor by day and a bartender by night. You’re trying to be the whole world’s shoulder to cry on, huh?”

Sam laughs, although there’s something a little strange about Bucky’s expression; he smiles, but there’s something in his eyes, a watchful and considering regard. Sam could almost mistake it for pity, or maybe concern. 

He looks away quickly, focusing on picking up his backpack and slinging it over his shoulder. “Maybe I’m just nosy.”

Bucky laughs. “You? Nosy? No way,” he says dryly. A pause, and then: “Got any plans tonight?”

Sam huffs, amused, as they walk towards the door together. Of course. “I have some readings to get through before tomorrow,” he says. “Then I have to FaceTime my sister. It’s my niece’s birthday.”

“Right,” Bucky says, nodding.

They make small talk as they work their way out of the building, but once they hit the sidewalk, Sam feels his resolve crack. An embarrassment; he’s barely lasted five minutes. “Don’t get your hopes up or anything,” he says. “I’ll be going to bed early. But I’ll text you.”

It’s the first time Sam has invited Bucky over without them leaving work and heading straight to his apartment. A strange nervousness sets in as he waits for Bucky to arrive, something Sam hasn’t felt in a while—a feeling he associates with first dates. He hasn’t been on an official date in God knows how long, and of course, he’s not about to go on one, so his anxiety is pretty well unfounded. Rather than bustle around the apartment in a fit of nerves like he wants to, he starts on his readings for next week to pass the time.

He buzzes Bucky in when he arrives, and then has to unlock the door to let him in. “Sorry, it’s a mess,” Sam says, gesturing vaguely at the papers scattered on the coffee table.

“No worries,” Bucky says. “You in the middle of something? Far be it from me to disrupt a scholar at work.”

Sam rolls his eyes. “Just let me put everything up,” he says, heading back to the couch. “I have a system. You want anything? Kitchen’s all yours.”

“Nah,” Bucky says, giving Sam another one of those soft-eyed looks that have been occurring more and more frequently lately. “Thanks, though.”

Bucky, as he is wont to do whenever he can, wanders over to the far wall, Sam’s one uninterrupted area to decorate; Bucky seems endlessly fascinated by the various photos and postcards Sam has up, as well as by Sam’s record collection, currently stored in stacked crates for lack of space to put up another shelf. Sam once might’ve considered it just a quirk, but now that he has some idea of why Bucky might be so interested in the mementos of someone else’s life, he finds it strangely endearing.

Sam is stacking index cards when Bucky says, “Who’s this?”

“Hmm?” Sam says, looking up. Bucky lifts a hand, tapping a picture on the wall, and Sam squints and moves toward him. He’s about five feet away when he stops, no longer compelled to move closer. Just the tiny form of the subject, the impression of olive green and yellow-orange sand, is enough. “Oh. That’s Riley.”

“Buddy of yours?” Bucky asks.

“Yeah,” Sam says. “He was.”

Bucky’s not stupid; comprehension dawns on his face almost instantly. “Oh,” he says. “Did he—”

“Die?” Sam says. “Yeah.” 

Sam goes back to the coffee table and picks up the stack of notecards. Behind him, Bucky says, “Sorry, Sam. I didn’t mean to—I didn’t know.”

“No way for you to know,” Sam says, shrugging. “He’s not dead in that picture, obviously.”

“Right,” Bucky says. When Sam glances at him, his brow is furrowed slightly; Sam looks away in order to put his notecards into his backpack. “You want to talk about it?”

It’s always sort of strange, being on the receiving end of that question, but it’s even stranger now. Bucky asking about Riley is the last thing Sam would’ve expected to happen tonight; Sam hadn’t even considered that Steve might’ve mentioned Riley to him, let alone that Bucky might see his picture and ask about him. They’re supposed to have a few beers, shoot the breeze for a while, then hook up. Bucky’ll probably leave afterwards, on account of Sam having class in the morning. Simple as that.

“I just figured,” Bucky adds quickly, “that this might be something we could—talk about.”

“What, you want the story?” Sam says. “It’s pretty simple. He was my partner. Both of us PJs. Chopper went down outside Bakhmala. I made it out okay, he didn’t.”

Bucky takes a step forward, the floorboards creaking under his heavy boots. “I’m sorry,” he says. “That’s awful.”

The crash wasn’t the awful part, in the grand scheme of things; the awful part was the wait afterwards, through a long, dark night, knowing there were bodies in the chopper at the bottom of the little valley below, knowing that his own could’ve—should’ve, really—been one of them. 

“Yeah,” Sam says, picking up his textbooks, slipping them into the bag as well. “I got out not long after.”

“How did you deal with it?” Bucky asks. Considerate, but curious; one soldier to another, one sufferer to another. “If you don’t mind me asking.”

I didn’t, Sam thinks, for a long time. I didn’t sleep for months. I still can’t, sometimes.

“I don’t know, man,” he says. “Day by day like everyone else. I got a cat.”

Bucky gives him a weak smile. “Not a little goblin after all, huh.” 

“My little goblin, I guess,” Sam says. He sets the bookbag on the floor by the futon, knocks aside the pillow Figaro likes to sit on. He registers movement out of the corner of his eye; Bucky taking another step closer, like Sam is a skittish cat in need of careful handling.

“I’m sorry I brought it up,” Bucky says. “It must’ve been—fucking rough.”

“Well,” Sam says, “it wasn’t easy. But compared to—”

“Don’t compare it to what happened to me,” Bucky says, but his voice is gentle. “It’s not a competition.”

Sam shoots him a look. “I didn’t say it was.”

“I know,” Bucky says. “I’m sorry.” He slips both of his hands into his pockets, looking mild and unthreatening for all his bulk, and Sam feels a pang of guilt pop like a tapioca ball in his chest.

He crosses the ten feet between himself and the kitchen swiftly. “Make it up to me,” he says. “Pick a record. Something good.”

Bucky watches Sam for a beat, then turns to walk back to the crates of records. “Shouldn’t they all be good?” he says. “They’re yours.”

“I will admit,” Sam says, as he goes into the fridge to get them both a beer, “to having some sentimental favorites and some that are actually quality.”

Bucky picks one seemingly at random, drawing the case out and holding it up. Sam barely glances at the cover as he brings Bucky his drink. “Too easy,” he says, although this, too, is not a competition. “I Want You. 1976.”

“I want you any time.”

Sam smiles. Yeah, way too easy, he thinks. “Sure, smooth operator.”

Bucky does put the record on, but they don’t drink much beer; sitting on the futon quickly devolves into making out on the futon, which in time devolves into jerking each other off on the futon. It’s weirdly more intimate than anything else they’ve done, and Sam’s had Bucky inside him more than once now. But the lamps are on this time, and there’s music playing, and Bucky’s face is very close, his breath minty like he brushed right before he came over, and he’s murmuring—you gonna come? huh? tell me, baby, I want to hear you say it—and Sam cannot believe he ever thought this would be fucking simple. 

“Can I stay over?” Bucky asks, after he’s come in Sam’s hand, his forehead resting lightly on Sam’s shoulder. His prosthetic hand is still up under Sam’s shirt, even though he can’t possibly have sensation in it, but Sam is accustomed to the feeling enough now that he hardly notices. “Only if you want.”

“Yeah,” Sam says. “Okay.”

Sam expects to sleep well, but he doesn’t.

He could chalk it up to any number of things—the amount of coffee he drank that day, being used to staying up all night, the change in routine, Bucky’s gentle, snuffling snores—but he knows why.

He hasn’t thought about Riley in a while. It’s probably more accurate to say that he hasn’t had time to think about Riley in a while—and as soon as he thinks of it that way, that ball of guilt takes up residence in him again, this time uncompromising and unignorable. It’s a weight, pinning him to the bed, the way his heavy gear felt like it was pinning him to the dirt that night he spent outside Bakhmala.

He could wake Bucky up; he could get out of bed and turn the lights on; he could go get that picture from the wall. I should talk about this, he thinks, and in his head he thinks he must sound the same way he sounds leading a group, deep-voiced and steady. It’s important to talk about things.

But it’s late, and he has class in the morning; he heaves himself over onto his side and lies there, facing the wall, until he falls into a thin sleep that lasts till morning.

When the alarm goes off, Bucky mumbles something incoherent into the back of Sam’s neck. He’s moved a lot closer during the night, and they’re very nearly chest to back. Sam extricates himself carefully, turns off the alarm, and leaves Bucky in his bed while he goes to shower and dress.

Bucky must’ve gone back to sleep while Sam showered, but he wakes up at the unavoidable rattle of Sam pouring out Figaro’s food. “Hey,” he mumbles, his pale face lit by the light spilling from the open bathroom door. “Sorry. I’ll clear out.”

“No worries, man,” Sam says, giving Figaro a quick scratch behind the ears as he traipses over, then straightening up. “Take your time. I gotta split, though. Just lock up when you leave.”

“Oh,” Bucky says, sounding slightly more alert now. “Okay.”

Sam always makes sure to factor ample time into his mornings, but he leaves quickly, with only a “see you later” and without even making coffee; he feels like he’s in a hurry, even if he isn’t. He stops at a bodega for a strong cup of black coffee and makes it to lecture substantially early. It feels good to get moving, to be alert, even with the heaviness that comes with poor sleep dogging his steps. But as long as he keeps busy, he thinks, he can make it through.


Sam does not glance up. “I’m counting,” he says, still flicking through bills.

“I know that’s tough for you,” Bucky says, and when Sam just scoffs, he says, “I’m teasing.” 

He steps closer, behind the bar for once. He’s just come from putting the broom and mop in the back; a mild scent of bleach washes with him. It’s been a busy night. “I’m beat,” Bucky says, coming to stand next to Sam at the counter, close enough to be friendly but not close enough to crowd. “You?”

“Yeah,” Sam says, finishing up at the register. “Long day.” He’s not lying; it has been a long ass day, and he’s been on his feet for almost all of it, and it’s already damn near the dawn of a new one.

“You look tired.”

“Gee, thanks.”

“I don’t—you don’t look bad, or anything,” Bucky says, frowning, as Sam closes out. “Is something wrong?”

“No,” Sam says, raising his eyebrows. “Why?”

“The uh—vibe,” Bucky says, “seems kind of off.”

“The vibe,” Sam repeats, aiming for deadpan. Judging by the way Bucky’s face falls, he misses the mark.

“Sam,” Bucky says, catching hold of Sam’s arm as he turns to head to the back, cash bag and receipts in hand. “Wait, just—talk to me, for a second.”

“We’re talking,” Sam says, confused, but he lets his voice soften a little. “I’m just doing my job while I do it.”

“It’ll wait five minutes,” Bucky says. “Just tell me. Did I do something wrong?”

“You haven’t done anything,” Sam says. And then, unbidden, even as he is horribly conscious of Bucky’s grip on his arm, his fingers gentle in the crook of Sam’s elbow: “I’ve just been thinking, is all.”

Bucky lets go of his arm. “Okay.”

Sam inhales slowly through his nose, then exhales. Don’t make me do this at work, don’t make me do this now, Jesus Christ, he thinks, but it’s too late to unring the bell. “Look,” he says. “We’re coworkers.”

Bucky’s expression is neutral, sort of flat. “Yup.”

“And we’re Steve’s friends,” Sam says. “Adding sex to the mix makes things—complicated. Not to mention unprofessional. And that’s on me.”

Bucky is quiet for a few seconds, not quite meeting Sam’s eyes, and Sam feels compelled to fill the silence. The bar, ordinarily full of life, feels like a vast, yawning chasm around them at this hour. “It’s nothing you did, man. That I can promise you.”

“I believe you,” Bucky says, still not looking him in the eye. Sam does not dare feel relieved. “You don’t think I’m some kind of ticking time bomb. Or if you do, it’s not because you think I’m crazy.” 

Sam shakes his head quickly. “I don’t—”

“It’s not because we work together,” Bucky says. “I don’t have a hell of a lot mapped out, but neither you nor I will be working here forever. And it’s sure as fuck not because of Steve.

Sam feels as though he’s been presented with a choice, as he does at the start of any unpleasant conversation; depending on the circumstances, he can either stay calm—maintain his composure, essentially, for the sake of keeping the peace—or he can straighten his spine, take a deep breath, and hold his fucking ground. He thinks he’s tired enough to opt for option one, but instead he finds himself saying, “Oh, yeah? Let me hear it, then.”

“You like me,” Bucky says, bluntly. “Too much. As much as I like you. And it’s freaking you out.”

“You don’t know me well enough to like me,” Sam says. “As a friend, sure.”

“Friends don’t have sex,” Bucky says. “Or maybe they do, but it doesn’t feel like this.”

Sam does not allow this to stymy him. “That’s all the more reason to end things now, then.”

“We’ll stop,” Bucky says. His eyes are on Sam now, unavoidable, the gray in them gleaming. “If that’s what you want. You have every right. All I’m asking is don’t bullshit me. That’s the thing I like most about you, sweetheart—you don’t bullshit.”

Sam opens his mouth, sort of automatically, to protest this, but Bucky is on a roll, speaking more quickly now than Sam has ever heard him talk. They still haven’t moved apart. Bucky’s good and riled, but he’s right on one count; Sam’s not scared of him, never really has been, and doesn’t even think he’s crazy. “I’m sorry that I brought up your partner last night,” Bucky says. “I never would’ve if I knew it would upset you. I’d have waited for you to bring it up in your own time. But why is it okay when I have to lay all my cards on the table and not when you do?”

“This has nothing to do with that,” Sam says, “nothing at all.”

“Of course it does,” Bucky says, plainly frustrated. “That’s what liking people—connecting, whatever the fuck—does. It forces you to lay everything out in front of someone else and let them make of it what they will. It’s okay to be scared.”

“I’m not scared,” Sam says, incredulous. “You don’t know me nearly as well as you think, Barnes.” 

“I’ve picked up a few things,” Bucky says. “Enough to know that you’re honest, and selfless, and kind. You put everyone else first. But dealing with other people’s feelings is easier than dealing with your own. That’s what this is about. Just so we’re clear.”

Sam stares at him, unable to come up with anything to quite express what he’s thinking. He’s not thinking much at all, actually. The nerve, the fucking audacity to say something like that, to basically call him a coward, after less than a month of even knowing Sam existed—

Finally, Sam asks, “You done?”

Bucky nods curtly. “Yeah,” he says. “I guess so. I’ll see you later, Sam.”

His shoulders gone unusually straight and rigid compared to their customary don’t-look-at-me slouch, Bucky turns to go. He doesn’t look back.

“Alright,” Steve says, folding his arms on the desk and fixing Sam with his gaze. “What the hell have I missed?”

He’s called Sam to the back at the start of the Monday shift like a child to the principal’s office; Sam can’t help but give him a look, even as he settles back in the chair on the other side of Peggy’s desk. “Well, a couple nights ago there was a fight. Real brawl. Cops came. That was pretty exciting.”

“Yeah, I heard,” Steve says, giving Sam a look of his own. “I mean between you and Bucky.”

Sam knew this was coming, not only as soon as Steve asked for a word, but the minute he left the bar last Friday morning. Regardless of how things went down, there’s no way Steve wouldn’t eventually pick up on something. Frankly, they’re lucky Peggy is eight months pregnant and unofficially done dealing with the business for a while, because she’d have had them pegged—no pun intended—from the get-go.

Sam doesn’t opt for playing stupid. Bucky was right—bullshit doesn’t come naturally to him. “What’s he told you?”

“Nothing,” Steve says. “That’s what worries me.”

The past few workdays have been—different, of course. There’s been no hanging around after close, chatting while they clean up; Bucky is either rushing through his tasks now or he’s always been slowing his pace to match the leisurely one Sam prefers at the end of a long shift. They haven’t spoken much at all, actually, outside of necessity. It’s been a little tense, but that’s to be expected, and it’s nothing that Sam doesn’t think will clear up with time.

“Just a disagreement, that’s all,” Sam says, which is—not technically bullshit. “We’re adults. We’ll handle it like adults.”

Steve looks at Sam for a minute, thoughtful, his brow slightly furrowed. “I know,” he says. “But, uh, I have to ask—was something, you know, going on? Before?”

Sam raises his eyebrows. “Are you asking if we were fonduing?”

“Sweet Christ, I wish Peg had never told you that story,” Steve says. He smiles, amused, but then he reaches up to rub his brow. He looks tired, Sam notes, with grayish shadows under his eyes. Steve struggles with insomnia, too, sometimes—it’s one of the things they talked about, the first couple times Steve came to group. Something they bonded over, years ago.

“You don’t need to worry about it, man,” Sam says.

“Is that a yes, though?” Steve asks. “To the fonduing.”

“It’s—personal,” Sam says. “Sorry.” He won’t lie to Steve—hasn’t ever before, that he can recall—but if Bucky hasn’t told him anything specific, Sam hesitates to do so now. It feels unfair, regardless of how he feels about Bucky at the moment. Not that he’s entirely clear on that, either. 

“I get it,” Steve says, nodding. “Just—are you okay?”

This question catches Sam off-guard; he blinks, startled by the concern in Steve’s eyes. “Yeah,” he says. “I’m alright.”

Steve nods, like he expected this answer. “And if you weren’t, would you tell me?”

Sam hesitates. “Probably,” he says. “I wouldn’t want to burden you. But I am fine.”

“You wouldn’t be a burden,” Steve says firmly. “I know I haven’t been— around, a lot, because of the baby, but I’m always here for you, Sam.”

“Yeah,” Sam says, abruptly aware of a tickle in his throat. He can’t even blame it on dust, as the tiny office is generally kept quite clean thanks to Peggy’s love of order and Steve’s allergies. “Thanks.”

Steve smiles. “You can clear out if you want,” he says. “You know I love you, right?”

“Yeah. I know.”

Steve mock-frowns. “You’re supposed to say it back.”

“Eh,” Sam says, pushing up from the chair. “You’re alright.”

“Oh, that’s how it is?”

“That’s how it is.”

Monday and Tuesday pass uneventfully, although with less to do around the bar, there’s more time to dwell on things. Sam has never been especially good at that—he’s either consumed by something or he refuses to think of it at all. There’s a balance, he knows, but he has trouble finding it.

Wednesday night comes as a blessing and a curse. He’s got a paper due Friday, but he’s been working on it steadily at every opportunity for the past week, so there’s not much to do but look over it with a fine-toothed comb and then put it to rest. He finds himself in the unusual position of having a night, mid-week, where he feels like he can actually relax a bit.

He is swiftly bored. TV won’t hold his attention, and nor will social media; he puts on music—decidedly not Marvin Gaye—but that’s more of a background noise thing than anything. He calls his sister, but she’s busy. Some kind of last minute school art project disaster, by the sound of it. He resigns himself to getting ahead on schoolwork.

Figaro brushes up against his legs while he’s re-reading the same dense paragraph for probably the thirteenth time, and Sam seizes the opportunity—not literally, obviously—to pick him up and settle him in his lap. “Hey, baby,” he says, in the cooing voice he would literally only ever use on an animal, away from human ears, “you need some attention? Huh?”

Figaro purrs, pleased, and digs his claws fondly into Sam’s thigh. Sam scratches behind his ears and goes back to his reading.

It occurs to him, not for the first time ever—or even the first time today—that he’s lonely. Figaro’s sweet little white face fills Sam with a tender urge that he can only express with more cooing, but there’s something missing, something he doesn’t think he would’ve noticed before—well, before now.

He could call Steve. This might be their last chance to hang out for a while, after all. He could call Natasha, see if she’s in town—she never is, but it wouldn’t hurt to ask—or he could call anyone. He can’t call Bucky, though. And therein, Sam thinks, lies the rub.

“I thought I’d start today,” Sam says. “If that’s okay.”

Nobody looks particularly surprised, although Sam thinks he might’ve been expecting it, weirdly enough. Bucky’s words— you’re trying to be the whole world’s shoulder to cry on, huh? —echo beneath the surface of his own thoughts. He’s been trying not to dwell on them, but they’re there.

“It’s your show, dude,” Eduardo, one of his Thursday regulars, says. He gives Sam a cheeky grin, and Sam rolls his eyes.

“Thanks, man,” he says. “Well. We talk a lot, in here, about what it was like when we first came home. How our experiences during that time shaped us just as much as service did. How our ways of dealing with things during that time can become entrenched in us for years to come.”

He wonders if he sounds rehearsed; he did rehearse this part a little, running over the words in his head to pass the time on the train. “I usually think of myself as a pretty self-aware guy,” Sam says. “And I do think that’s true. But I think the thing that’s been entrenched in me—what that kept me sane, years ago—is an ability to see myself acting a certain way, know it’s maybe not the best way to go about things, and just—keep it moving anyway. I just bury myself in something else.”

“Denial,” Letitia chimes in from the back.

“Right,” Sam says, and is surprised when he doesn’t feel stung. “It’s usually not a problem. It’s not something I ever get called on, because it’s how I keep my shit together, broadly speaking.”

“So let me guess,” Eduardo says. “You got called on it.”

Sam laughs. “Yeah,” he says. “By—a friend. Some of you probably remember that I lost a good friend on deployment. It came up unexpectedly the other night, and I didn’t realize it at the time, but I think I shut down on him. Like, majorly. I guess it felt safer than the alternative.”

There’s a beat of silence, and Sam continues, “He’s a vet, too. He’s seen some shit—pardon my French. But I’m not used to being that open with anyone, I guess. Not about that.” Not about the things that scare me. That hurt me. “And things got a little ugly, after that.”

“I’m beginning to think,” Joyce says, smiling at him, “this isn’t a friend we’re talking about.”

“. . . ‘Friend’ is a flexible term,” Sam agrees, and a murmur of laughter ripples around the group. He smiles, gratified, strangely relieved. He remembers now how good this actually feels—talking, just letting it out, whatever it is. 

So maybe he’s forgotten, over the last few months, maybe the last few years, to let himself have this. Maybe he’s even forgotten that he needs it.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do about my friend,” Sam says. “If I even want to do anything about it. But I guess that’s the conversation I’d like to open up. Are there patterns you all find yourselves falling into? To keep yourself safe, even years after the real danger has passed?”

Another murmur, this one of agreement; today’s discussion, Sam thinks, will be a good one.

Things get easier, day by day. Bucky loses most of the wounded look by Friday, and by the following Monday, they’re even able to have a casual conversation again.

Sam’s been sort of at a loss for how to handle this situation. Bucky won’t get close to him for long enough to let Sam initiate conversation about what happened, and he’s also not sure that work is the best place for them to even have that conversation. If Steve’s noticed a change without even being around most of the time, their coworkers have definitely picked up on it. Sam’s still sure of one thing: he doesn’t want this to get messy for anybody else. It’s already gotten plenty messy for his tastes.

Tonight would be a good night, though. They’ll close alone on a Monday night. It is, Sam realizes abruptly, Bucky’s fifth Monday shift; his one month anniversary at Lucky Star has come and gone, unnoticed. “Hey,” Sam says. “Congratulations, by the way.”

“Sorry?” Bucky says, as he brings over a tray of discarded glasses. They had a large party camp out in a corner booth for most of the evening.

“You finished your thirty day probationary period,” Sam says. “Steve can’t take you back to the pound now.”

“Fuck off,” Bucky says, but he’s grinning as he puts the tray on the bar.

“I’m serious,” Sam says. “It’s a little belated, but we’ll have to celebrate somehow. All of us. Steve and Peggy, too, if we can coerce them.”

“Sure,” Bucky says, his smile sobering slightly. Sam looks away quickly, busying himself with the glasses in an admittedly childish attempt to avoid any awkward eye contact, but he can tell Bucky is watching him for a moment before he moves on to his next chore.

Sam doesn’t think much of it when he feels his phone vibrate in his jeans pocket and hears Bucky’s chime simultaneously from the vicinity of the bathrooms, twenty feet away. But then Bucky walks out, his eyes on his phone, expression awed. “Sam,” he says. “Have you checked your phone recently?”

“What?” Sam says, immediately reaching for his back pocket. “No.”

He has several notifications; the Lucky Star group chat is responsible for most of them. Sam scrolls up far enough to read where Steve sent, about an hour ago: The baby is coming a little early! Will keep you all posted! He hasn’t said anything since.

“Holy shit,” Sam says, but then he checks his other messages. There’s one from Steve, sent solely to Sam and Bucky about fifteen minutes ago: no words in this one, just a string of little red alarm emojis.

Sam looks up, opening his mouth to speak, but sees that Bucky already has his phone to his ear. He waits for a few seconds, then lowers it and ends the call. “He didn’t answer.”

“His wife’s in labor,” Sam points out, in the middle of typing a quick everything okay? message. “He’s probably not going to pick up the phone. And he’s a horrible texter as it is.”

“Should we be worried?”

“My head says no,” Sam says. “My gut is undecided.”

Bucky looks even less certain than Sam feels. “If something happens—”

“Yeah,” Sam says, not even really wanting to entertain all the things that could possibly go wrong with the baby or Peggy or both. He thinks unbidden of the shadows under Steve’s eyes the last time they saw each other and swallows a lurch of anxiety. They’re his dearest friends in the world, Sam thinks; the world is not allowed to be cruel to them. 

“Fuck it,” Bucky says abruptly. “Do you know what hospital they would go to?”

Sam’s only heard the birth plan about a hundred times from Steve. “Metro-General. Best place for their insurance.”

“I’ll finish closing,” Bucky says, “but then I think I’ll go. If he hasn’t texted us back before then to say everything’s alright.”

Sam doesn’t really have to think about it. Later he might—he might consider that he has class in the morning, and that he’s about to embark on this experience with Bucky, of all people—but right now he doesn’t hesitate. “Fuck closing,” he says. “Let’s go.”

Steve still hasn’t texted back by the time they reach the maternity ward.

Sam has to perform nothing short of a miracle to get them there; he politely flirts with an older nurse in the emergency ward to get her to allow them upstairs, then has to openly beg the security guard on the maternity floor to let them past the elevators. This is no mean feat when he has Bucky lurking behind him like a large shadow, complete with a damn ball cap pulled low over his eyes.

“Take your hat off,” Sam tells him, as they approach a desk manned by a young female nurse’s aide with a pair of headphones dangling loosely around her neck, tinny audio crackling from them. “You’re giving off Lindbergh baby vibes.”

Bucky makes a face at him, then quickly takes the cap off, revealing a case of hat hair that Sam absolutely refuses to be charmed by. “Excuse me,” Sam says to the aide. “We’re looking for a patient. Margaret Carter.”

“Visiting hours are over except for immediate family. I also can’t let you on the unit at all without one of the parents signing you in,” the aide says tiredly. “Sorry.”

Sam had expected as much; he glances at Bucky, who gives a minute shrug. “Okay,” Sam says. “Is it alright if we wait for a bit?”

She shrugs, and Sam doesn’t wait for any more permission than that; he makes a beeline for an isolated corner of the waiting area, where two chairs are tucked in a corner between the wall and a couple vending machines. The nurse goes back to her computer, and down the corridor the security guard goes back to his phone, both seemingly unphased by this.

Bucky sits next to Sam in the other creaky plastic chair, pulls out his phone, then taps out a brief message. “Still nothing.”

“He’ll check his phone eventually,” Sam says. “We’re probably overreacting, anyway.”

“Maybe,” Bucky says. “But they’re having a baby. Someone should be here.”

“Yeah,” Sam says. Steve has no living family, and as far as Sam knows, neither does Peggy—and any she does have is back home, anyways. It doesn’t feel right to have nobody in the waiting room. “Could be a while before that actually happens, if it hasn’t already.”

“Yep,” Bucky agrees. “Gotta admit, this is not how I envisioned tonight going.”

“Yeah?” Sam says, glancing at the clock on the wall over the aide’s desk. 2:37. “You had plans, or something?”

“Nope,” Bucky says, leaning back in his seat like he’s making himself comfortable. When Sam looks away from the clock, he finds Bucky watching him openly. “But I’m always hopeful something might fall in my lap.”

Sam is caught between a frisson of delight and the urge to roll his eyes. Bucky flirting with him is precisely what got them into this situation in the first place, and yet here he is, irrepressibly pleased by it all the same. “Is that so,” Sam says. “Any’ll do, huh?”

Bucky shrugs again. “Any that’ll have me,” he says, still watching Sam with the same even expression.

Sam looks away, under the guise of reaching into his pocket for his wallet. “You want something?” he says, tipping his head to indicate the vending machines.

“I’m good, thanks,” Bucky says. Naturally, when Sam returns to his seat a few moments later with a bag of Lays and a bottle of water, Bucky’s fingers are in the bag in short order, fishing out a chip.

“Hey,” Sam says, although he’s not really perturbed, rather still unreasonably happy to have Bucky actually engaging with him at all. “I offered to buy you some, man.”

“Sorry, sweetheart,” Bucky says. He seems to catch himself a split second too late; he winces slightly, almost imperceptibly, and pops the chip in his mouth.

“It’s okay,” Sam says quickly. “I don’t mind.”

Bucky says nothing, so Sam says, aiming for teasing, “Let me guess. You give everybody the pet name treatment.”

Bucky raises his eyebrows. “You know damn well you’re the only one,” he says mildly, “in a long time.”

Sam hesitates, then nods. He glances across the waiting room at the orderly, but she’s put her headphones back in. Then he looks back at Bucky. “Well,” he says. “I guess you already know the same’s true for me, huh.”

Bucky’s still got his eyebrows raised; Sam feels vaguely self-conscious, but doesn’t give in to the impulse to equivocate. “I figured that, yeah,” Bucky says.

The first time they hooked up, Bucky asked him a question— how long’s it been since someone took care of you? The way you need. At the time Sam hadn’t thought too much of it, but it had gotten under his skin a bit—and it’s clearly still there, judging by the fact that he can remember the moment so clearly, the look in Bucky’s eyes and the soft, somehow penetrating tone of his voice. He’s always been more perceptive than Sam’s given him credit for.

Sam swallows. Straightens his spine slightly. “The other night, you asked me how I dealt with things,” he said. “After I came home.”

Now Bucky looks surprised; he blinks several times in quick succession, his lips parting slightly. “Sam,” he says. “We don’t have to—”

“I want to tell you,” Sam says. “If you still want to know.”

Bucky hesitates, then nods, so Sam continues. “I couldn’t sleep for months,” he says. “Not unless I was medicated. My bed felt—too soft. All I could think about was sleeping on the dirt. Lying on the dirt, the night Riley died, waiting for somebody to come get my ass.” 

Bucky inhales sharply like he wants to say something, or maybe just like hearing that hurt him, somehow. He’s watching Sam very closely, unabashedly. “Sometimes I still can’t sleep,” Sam says. “But I made it through, obviously. I made myself so busy with work and school and everything else that I couldn’t help but be exhausted by the time my head hit the pillow. I still do that, I guess. But talking about Riley, when I haven’t had to in so long—well, I’m the first person to say that healing isn’t linear, and I guess that proves it.”

“And I guess that’s why I put a stop to things,” Sam says. He has to resist the urge to squirm now, wishes desperately that Bucky would say something, do anything other than sit there quietly and let Sam talk. “I would’ve found a way to sabotage it sooner or later. I’m man enough to admit that. I would’ve had to—be still, at some point, with you, and I haven’t had to do that with anybody in a long time.”

Years, probably. Sure, he’s talked to people about the things that bother him; Steve, his sister, various counselors over the years. But it would have been different with Bucky, harder and scarier and probably more rewarding, and Sam knows that now with the clarity of hindsight.

There’s a beat of silence, save for the rattling hum of the vending machine. Sam resists the urge to glance at the clock again; he has a feeling time isn’t moving quite as quickly as he feels it should be. “But I guess you already knew that,” he says, trying to smile. “You had me figured this whole time, huh.”

“Sam,” Bucky says.

“That’s all I really wanted to say,” Sam says. “And since we’ve got time on our hands, I figured—might as well say it now.”  

“Sam,” Bucky intones, and Sam quiets, looking at him. “I’m sorry.”

“For what?”

“For, uh, how I handled things,” Bucky says, quirking his mouth into a brief moue. “I was upset, and it got the best of me. I’ve been wearing my ass on my shoulders the last week or so.”

Sam smiles. “It’s okay, man, you were just in your feelings,” he says. “Happens to the best of us.”

“I know, right,” Bucky says dryly. “I am such an air sign.”

“You’re a water sign.”  

“Ah, shit.” Bucky grimaces. “I thought I had that right.”

Sam laughs, loudly enough that the aide glances up briefly from her computer screen. Bucky’s wearing that soft expression again, looking at Sam, and Sam realizes abruptly that he’s missed that look. He’s already mostly accepted that he’s been missing Bucky, but the look somehow comes as a surprise. 

“So,” Sam says. “Are we good?”

Bucky smiles, and Sam smiles back. “Yeah, sugar. We’re good.”

“Sam,” Bucky says. His hand is gentle as it brushes Sam’s wrist, but his voice is not without urgency. “Wake up.”

Sam lifts his head from where it’s slumped toward his shoulder, and says, “What’s happened?”

“Steve texted,” Bucky says. “He’s coming out here.”

Sam glances at the clock—4:05 now, he must’ve only been out about thirty minutes—but before he has a chance to say anything else, the double doors to the maternity unit swing open. Steve spills out, looks around, and spots them. Sam gets a brief impression of sweatpants and blotchy pink cheeks before he springs to his feet.

Bucky is faster; “Stevie?” he says, already up and moving. Steve collides with him in the center of the large room, pulling him into a colossal bear hug.

“We’re fine, Peggy’s fine, everyone’s fine,” Steve says, letting go of Bucky with one arm to yank Sam into the mix. Bucky’s left elbow jams into Sam’s stomach rather unpleasantly, but Sam returns the clumsy group hug anyway.

“You scared us, man,” Sam says, when Steve lets go and he regains his ability to breathe. “You didn’t check your phone!”

“Yeah, uh,” Steve says, running a sheepish hand through his hair. He’s pink-cheeked and his eyes are slightly red, but Sam can’t tell if it’s from exhaustion or crying or both. “Sorry about that. Maybe don’t mention it. Peggy specifically told me not to freak anybody out.”

“So everything’s good?” Bucky says. “The baby?”

“Come see for yourself,” Steve says.

“Well, it is four o’clock in the morning,” Sam says. “If you guys want to, y’know, rest—”

Steve waves a hand as if to say nonsense! “Come see the baby,” he says. “Then you can go.” 

Steve signs them in with the orderly—“they’re my brothers, I swear, whatever you have to write on there is fine”—and bustles them into the ward and into the first room on the right before anyone can say anything. Peggy is sitting up in bed in the dimly-lit room, clad in a hospital gown, tiredly beautiful in the way Sam associates with new motherhood. She beckons him forward and kisses his cheek, then does the same to Bucky.

“Hello, boys,” she says. “I must say, I didn’t expect company at this hour.”

“Steve insisted,” Sam says.

“He is a very insistent sort,” Peggy says fondly, watching as Steve moves around the bed and goes to the hospital-issue bassinet standing on the other side. He carefully picks up a small bundle, swaddled in white with a tiny pink hat poking out the top, and brings it back around the bed around to show them.

“This must be Samantha,” Sam says, getting a peek at the tiny, scrunched-up pink face.

“You know, I’ve always liked Jamie for a girl,” Bucky muses.

“You two,” Peggy says, “are pests. Her name is Vivian.”

“Peggy says she looks like me,” Steve says hopefully, as he offers the baby to Sam. “I don’t see it so much. She is blonde, though.”

Sam takes the baby, a soft little bundle like a loaf of bread, if a loaf of bread weighed a bit over six pounds. She does not stir, her sleeping face a grumpy little approximation of Steve’s. Bucky leans in to get a better look, and Sam catches a familiar hint of his shampoo on the air and is nearly overwhelmed by a surge of fondness that he feels he can safely blame on a misdirected nurture response. “God, she does look like Steve,” Bucky says. “A cryin' shame, Carter.”

“Better luck next time,” Sam says.

“Oh, Christ,” Peggy says. “We’ve only just had the one, there won’t be another for quite some time.”

Sam and Steve eventually manage to coax Bucky into holding Vivian, though he agrees to do so only while sitting down. He holds her gingerly, resting her in the crook of his right arm and looking down at her constantly as if for reassurance, but gradually his posture relaxes, his expression growing less fretful. 

“See? It’s not so bad,” Steve says, observing this fondly.

“Maybe try holding her less like a football,” Sam suggests.

“You’re hilarious,” Bucky says dryly, but then the baby peeks her eyes open, just for a moment, and Bucky smiles at her. Sam has to look away, biting his lip, to avoid embarrassing himself with either a grin or sappy tears. He’s not sure he succeeds, if the raised eyebrows Steve gives him are any indication.

It’s after 4:30 by the time Sam and Bucky head out, leaving the new parents to feed the baby and hopefully get some rest. They’re both quiet, tired, on the way out of the building, walking close enough that their elbows brush on occasion. Neither of them apologize for it; they don’t speak at all until they reach the sidewalk out front.

“Do you want to come over?” Sam blurts into the predawn quiet of the street, just as Bucky says, “I’ll call the Uber.”

Sam raises his eyebrows, and Bucky grins, a white flash of teeth, as he puts his baseball hat back on. “Confident, are we?” Sam says dryly.

“Well,” Bucky says, taking out his phone, “I had you figured, didn't I?”

Sam can tell by the position of the sun outside the window that it’s about noonish when he wakes; they’ve forgotten to close the curtains. He’s surprised he slept as well as he did, but he was out as soon as his head hit the pillow. He’s only awake now, he realizes, because of two things—his bladder, and Bucky’s surprisingly bony knee pushing against his thigh.

Bucky is still asleep, curled on his side with his face scrunched up into a pout, and he doesn’t stir when Sam gets up to pee, or when Sam returns to bed. He does, however, wake up a few moments later when Figaro jumps onto the bed and gingerly clambers over him to get to Sam.

“Huh,” Bucky mumbles, cracking his eyes open, “have I been chosen?”

“No,” Sam says, as Figaro invades the warm space between their bodies, nestling against Sam’s chest and giving Bucky a wary look. “But you are being tolerated.”

Bucky makes a sleepy oh well sort of face and yawns. “Guess that’s about the best I can hope for.”

Sam snickers, and Bucky smiles. “What time is it?” he asks. “Don’t you have somewhere to be?”

“I may have emailed my professor at 4:51 this morning and said I had food poisoning.”

Bucky huffs a laugh. “Bad boy.”

“Please do not ever say that in a non-sexual context again.”

“Who says it’s non-sexual?” Bucky asks, raising his eyebrows innocently.

“Don’t be crass,” Sam says, nodding to indicate the cat, “he can hear you.”

Bucky laughs, then turns over onto his back, stretching luxuriously. In the light of the midday sun, shirtless and sleepy-eyed, he’s enough of a sight that Sam could almost spout poetry. “I’m still going to the VA later,” Sam says. “If you want to come.”

“Sure,” Bucky says, regarding him evenly. “You asking me to stick around between now and then?”

Sam smiles despite himself. “We’ve spent a lot of nights together,” he says. “I figure it’s time we try hanging out in the daytime.”

Bucky smiles, then turns over enough to offer his fingers to Figaro to sniff. Sam watches as Fig inspects the proffered hand before begrudgingly accepting a scratch behind the ears. “What do you want to do in the meantime?” Bucky asks. “Food?”

Sam pretends to ruminate on it as he lets a hand migrate across the covers to rest on Bucky’s outer thigh. “I could eat.”

Bucky gives Sam a scandalized look. “At least put the cat up first, Sam.”

Sam laughs, and then Bucky laughs, and then he looks at Sam in that way of his and Sam doesn’t mind, soaking it in and probably returning a look of his own. Maybe he’s been giving a look this whole time. But he got a good night’s sleep, uninterrupted by anyone’s nightmares, and it’s sunny and warm now. Their friends have a new baby, and Sam has Figaro and Bucky. Yes, he decides; it’s going to be a good day.