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Falcon, Wolf, and an Old Man in a Retirement home

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It'd been a few months since the snap had been reversed. The universe was still reeling from the shock of abruptly having half its population returning. The Avengers were busy, all too consumed within their own grief of losing Natasha and Tony, as well as the recent reformation of the Avengers. If it could be called that.

None of the Avengers had noticed when he would disappear for a couple hours every weekend dressed like a civilian. He usually dressed in sweats, hair up in a bun and a jacket on. For extra measure he had a black glove to cover his metal hand. He looked like a civilian.

He was grateful no one noticed, despite the pang of loneliness it brought. Because his… associates finding out would lead to questions he didn't want nor felt like answering. But something disturbing his delicate routine was bound to happen. Whether it was Clint stopping by or Bruce and Thor appearing to give their own reports. Or even...

"Where are you going?" Someone asked as he was leaving. Bucky looked over his shoulder to see Sam standing behind him with his arms crossed and eyebrows raised. The distrust he still had in the ex-soldier was evident.

"None of your business," he answered huffily. Bucky didn't need someone's permission to leave, he was entirely in control of his mind now. Wakanda had cleared him and his own legal battles were more or less settled. So there really was no reason to ask.

It was thirty minutes earlier than he usually went but quiet halls and empty chatter was beginning to get to him. Bucky figured could go buy some brownies from that bakery Steve likes and get to the retirement home right as they opened. He liked to get there before any big groups of people did.

“Then you won't mind if I come along.” The two men had a staring match for what felt like a few minutes but was likely a few seconds. Finally Sam quirked his eyebrow saying that he would be coming along whether or not Bucky allowed it.

“Whatever,” Bucky said shortly, he pulled his jacket tighter and walked right out into the chilly New York air. He let the door swing back on Sam’s face without looking back. He had allowed the other man to come along, however, he made no promises to be civil. He ignored Sam’s call to him as he rushed to catch up to him and the glares he received and started walking down the familiar path.

He did his best to not give any attention to Sam’s constant questioning in favor of concentrating on where he was going. The cold air cleared his head a little bit from the fog that had settled over his mind and the sunlight helped to brighten his mood.

About thirty minutes into the walk they arrived in a smaller suburb of New York City. He spotted a small building, with red brick walls and a newer roof two decades out of date. It was just the bakery he had in mind, and couldn't help the small smirk that appeared on his face.

When he and Steve were younger and in their correct time there used to be a bakery a few blocks from where they lived. Every now and then, if they had some extra money they would buy a single brownie or cookie, whatever they had chosen that day, and split it between them. It was before Bucky went to war, before his mission went wrong. They had moved places since 1930, but the taste had always remained the same.

It was one of the fonder things he had managed to remember. His memories had been more or less shredded through the program and training he’d been put through. He couldn’t remember his mom’s face or his instructor’s voices. But a few things had surfaced since his mind had been fixed and the brainwashing was for a lack of a better word, removed.

“What's with that look on your face?” Sam asks suspiciously, crossing his arms. Bucky’s expression immediately fell. He shoots one of his infamous Winter Soldier glares at him, then he turns and goes inside.

The shop owner, an older woman whose mother and father had started the bakery, looked up when the bell above the door chimed. When her kindly eyes landed on him they brightened up. “James, good to see you again. The usual, my dear?”

Bucky saw Sam silently mouth the word ‘again’ but he didn’t say anything, just watched the ex-soldier with a weird expression. “Please, and thank you.”

Then she noticed Sam and smiled at him. “Oh, and who’s this young man?” She asks.

“I’m Sam,” he introduces himself and offers his hand.

The woman takes it and gives a firm shake. “Pleased to meet you, Sam,” she says, “Any friend of James is a friend of ours.” There’s a box already sitting on the counter beside her with the name ‘James Barnes’ scrawled in neat handwriting across the top. Ready to go and simply waiting.

So this is a usual thing , Sam realized. He let his hand fall down to his side as he watched Bucky pay and receive the box with ease. But he was very unfamiliar with what exactly was going on. Not for the first time on this walk he wondered how well he actually knew Bucky outside of the whole Winter Soldier deal.

Sure, he’d interacted with the man on several occasions, he knew about the HYDRA brainwashing, then again, most people did. Bucky had been very good at avoiding him and everyone since he’d been brought back and Sam couldn’t remember a time when he actually had a genuine talk with the guy. As in, not during a life or death situation or some petty argument.

He was startled out of his thinking when he saw Bucky walking right past him. Sam quickly jerked back into the present and started following again. They left the shop and continued walking in silence.

“So how long have you been doing this?” It came out before Sam could stop himself.

He saw Bucky shrug with one shoulder. “None of your business.” Was the monotone answer he received.

“That's fair,” Sam admits. “Where are we going? ‘Cause I feel like I should know, since I'm coming along.”

“Well you didn't have to come, you could have decided to trust me and stay at the complex.” There was a considerable pause before Bucky said, “We'll be there soon, so be quiet.”

It was only another ten or so minutes before Bucky started seeing the familiar scenery, the bench that looked like it predated even him and the park with the fountain. And finally the place itself, it was a cheerfully colored one story building with the words “Sunshine Hills Retirement Home” written across a sign staked into the ground.

Deceivingly happy, Bucky thought with a sneer. He saw Sam staring at him, trying to be discreet, but not very well. He opened the door, and Sam put an arm out to stop it from hitting him.

“What's-?” Sam started before he caught sight of the smiling young woman standing behind the front desk.

She slid a clipboard, visiting form, on the desk. “Mr. Barnes! Right on time. Mr. Rogers  is expecting you, he's in the visiting room now,” she stepped back and seemed to finally spot Sam. “Oh, and who is this?”

Rogers? “Sam Wilson,” he extends his hand again. “I'm with him.”

“No you're not. Ma’am, I have never seen this man before in my life. He started following me a block ago.”

The woman faltered in her handshake, looking between Sam who was gaping and Bucky who had the smallest of smirks on his face. “Um, I-”

“I'm kidding,” Bucky says with a huff that sounds suspiciously like a laugh. He walks past Sam- who has to scramble to write down his name- without saying anything else, leaving Sam to blink in confusion. Did Bucky really just..? Yes, yes he did.

Sam shook his head in annoyance, refusing to even entertain the idea that he may have deserved that. He followed Bucky since he seemed to know where he was going. Sam didn't have to worry too much because Bucky had paused outside the visiting room door and was staring at him impatiently.

“Are you going to tell me what's going on yet?” Sam asks.

Bucky rolled his eyes. “How about I show you.” He opens the door and let’s Sam step inside first. It’s a big room, Sam notices, the carpet is a dull red and the walls a boring beige color. It smelled like an old person's home, not surprisingly. The scent made him think back to when he visited his grandparents when they lived in a home. Bucky was turned towards a particular corner of the room where a white-haired man with a blue sweater sat at a booth-like table with a chess set in front of him, seemingly waiting for something or someone.

Sam couldn’t take his eyes off the man because he looked very familiar. It was on the tip of his tongue, he’d definitely seen him before and- And then it hit him. Sam could have slapped himself for not figuring it out earlier. Rogers, as in Steve Rogers. Captain America, sitting in a retirement home ready to play some chess. It wasn’t something he never would have thought he’d ever see this in his lifetime.

Bucky approached and greeted Steve, presenting the box he’d picked up from the bakery. There was a sense of routine. He got the feeling that this had been happening for a while.

Time to make himself known he supposed. Sam walked over to their table and sat on Bucky’s other side. “Hey Steve,” he said.

“Sam, good to see you.” Steve’s smile had still never changed or faltered, even with all they had gone through. “How are you holding up?”

Sam shrugged. Everyone was looking to him to be the next Captain America. Tony was dead and Steve was retired. Tony’s kid, the spider one, Tony had talked about him being the next Iron Man. But the kid was still in high school. And, well, no kid deserved to have that much pressure on them. So it was up to Sam to try and pull together whatever remained of their team and keep the world safe.

Steve seemed to understand this. He’d held the mantle of Captain America for many years. “I wouldn’t have chosen you if I didn’t think you would do better than me, Sam.”

There were so many things he wanted to say and ask. Why me? Why couldn’t you have asked someone else? Why did you leave? He felt mad and it must have shown on his face because there was a flicker of sadness on Steve’s face. Good, Sam thought bitterly and regretted it immediately afterwards.

“I know you’re angry at me-”

“I really don’t think you understand. They will never accept me as Captain America, you are. Not me,” he hissed in uncharacteristic anger. The stress of the situation and the thought of disappointing so many people made his blood boil.

He stood up before he did or said anything else he’d regret. As he walked away he could hear Bucky say, “I’ll handle it, Steve.” and then get up as well. He didn’t need to be handled. Sam took a deep breath of the smoggy New York air. It was almost suffocating inside.

When Bucky exited the building Sam was already halfway down the path. He knew he was overreacting, he knew he’d look back on this and feel embarrassed. But he was pissed off. He just wanted to go back to the facility and take his anger out on some punching bags.

“I was mad the first time too.” Bucky walked alongside him, both hands shoved in his pockets. “I came here the day after... After the funerals took place. They had to make me leave. I don’t know what Steve told them but that let me back in, warily.”

Sam didn’t say anything for a long couple of minutes. “I can do this. I’m not Captain America. I can’t be what people want me to be.”

Bucky fixed him with his dark eyes. Sam noticed how permanently exhausted he looked. He wondered if it was the nightmares he knew they all suffered from. “You’re right,” he said shortly. “You’re not Captain America.”

Sam opened his mouth to say… Something. But before he could Bucky continued. “You aren’t Captain America. You’re Sam Wilson, the Falcon. A hero in and of your own rights who will lead the Avengers against threats on innocents.”

“I don’t know how to do that,” Sam dismissed. “People will never listen to me, Bucky.”

“They listen to you now, Sam. And it’s not because of that shield. It’s because, as loath as I am to admit it, you sometimes make good calls.”

Sam snorted and looked away from Bucky. Something in him seemed to settle in his chest and Sam stayed quiet until they got back to the facility. He felt like this was a role reversal on who was talking and who was supposed to be dark and broody. As Sam opened the door, Bucky spoke again.

“Steve talks about you a lot. He’s made… A lot of mistakes,” Bucky’s hand comes up to rest on the metal, letting his thumb trace the divots and connecting parts. “He’s not perfect. But Steve knows this wasn’t one of his mistakes. He watches the news a lot and sees what you’ve done just in these past few months. He chose well, and would never expect you to be him.” And then he was gone, leaving Sam with his thoughts.

That wasn’t the last visit Sam goes on. He didn't go the week after, even though most of his anger had settled he felt uncomfortably guilty. He knew if he put off apologizing he just never would. And the events after being blipped back to life and missing five years had made him realize sometimes waiting was for fools. And that the present was a gift not to be wasted.

When Bucky saw him waiting at the front door of the compound he didn’t say anything, just motioned for him to follow. Steve of course said he had nothing to apologize for, and the conversation quickly changed from

Sometimes Sam comes along for moral support, because he is trying. He brings his mom's cookies every so often, he’s much more civil to the ex-soldier. If he was feeling adventurous he might even call Bucky his friend. Though their arguments and banter never really stopped, they got along better.

Less personal. It could almost be considered friendly ribbing. And Sam couldn’t say he was entirely opposed.

The day it finally sunk in, that it settled the fact Bucky was his friend, was six months later. When Sam proposed a dangerous and risky plan to fight a supervillain. Everyone hesitated, except Bucky. Who immediately stood next to Sam and proclaimed himself onboard.

When he went to bed that night, sore and bruised but successful, he knew he had a friend in Bucky. And vice-versa. That was how the Falcon befriended the Wolf.