How it happened was like this:
It was a usual day, where Sam went on his usual run around the cluster of blocks his house was on the corner of. When he was done an hour later, he jogged to his usual diner and was surprised to see it already crowded with students. Sam didn’t understand why he was still surprised, because while usually unusual on a weekday at 7, Sam lived down the road from the university, and Sam remembered from first-hand experience that when in university, nobody slept.
What wasn’t so usual was that as Sam walked in towards his usual booth at the back of the diner, he found some students already there, study notes splayed out all across the cream vinyl tabletop.
Sam raised an eyebrow. He wouldn’t make a fuss, he knew every staff of Mandy’s by name and saw them all as friends who had helped ease him back into normal civilian life. But it was odd, because all of them, as his friends, knew that he needed to sit with his back to the wall, eyes on everything happening in the room.
Sam gave a little frown and a slight shake of his head, before taking a seat at the counter and swivelling around so that his back was to the kitchen. If nothing else, he at least knew Adam in the kitchen and Maryanne and Roxy behind the counter would never hurt him.
Just as he thought that, Maryanne, with her blazing orange hair and motherly tendencies, spoke up, “Sammy, honey! Whatever are you doing here at the counter?”
Sam looked over his shoulder at her bright brown eyes and lipsticked smile, and shrugged. “Just felt like it.”
Maryanne eyed him suspiciously. Then she seemed to catch on to something and her eyes flickered to his usual booth, before her expression morphed into disapproval. Her fists came up to rest on her hips.
“Now who would have done something as silly as giving your booth to someone else,” she huffed, looking around at the rest of the staff, who all seemed pretty busy doing their own thing.
Sam shrugged again, “No big deal, Maryanne, I’m fine here.”
“Like hell you are, you can’t even sit properly.” When it looked like she was leaning over to tell the group of students to move, Sam turned around to face her fully, holding out a placating hand.
But before he could even say it was fine, and sitting at the counter would be a nice change of being able to actually see Maryanne’s face and lively expressions, a clatter that signalled the back room door being shoved open caught both their attentions.
Well, Sam said shoved, but in reality, an arm had punched right through the flimsy wood. Not one pair of eyes were on their homework or breakfasts anymore, and for a moment everyone just stared. Sam had shot up out of his seat, and his arms were spread to try and offer some feeble protection to the crowd. Before he even knew it, Sam was already calculating the possible scenarios and exits for each and every person.
The three tables at the back, including his usual booth, were most in danger of being in the way of the attack, and Sam’s eyes flickered wildly back and forth. Maybe if he kicked the door and the assailant back in, he could buy himself some time to grab the napkin dispensers off the counter and throw them hard enough through the windows to create a makeshift exit for the hostages.
Sam knew that was his best bet, and he took a step forward, ready to do just that while yelling for the rest of the diner to get the hell out, when the “assailant” pulled his arm back out through the hole while yelling, “I’M SORRY, I’M SO SORRY, I DIDN’T MEAN TO!”
Sam paused. That didn’t sound very much like an assailant ready to die with the hostages he was planning to take.
The door was pulled away from the room - which Sam was just noticing was the correct direction, instead of the earlier push towards the room - and a guy stepped through the frame, both hands held up in surrender.
He was dressed in layers, a shirt under a maroon Henley, and had a standard-issue light cream-and-red-striped Mandy’s apron wrapped around his waist. His hair was in a messy bun, and below that, two low-set thick eyebrows lay over an intense set of eyes that looked like they were twinkling even beneath the apology radiating out from them. Under the light scruff, Sam could see a well-defined jaw and cleft chin.
Sam thought he felt his heart skip a beat. In his haze, he didn’t know if it was from the threat of danger, or from the good-looking man himself.
As Roxy hurried forward towards the man, Maryanne came out from behind the counter to stand in front of Sam, this time the one with the placating hands up. “It’s fine, Sam, there’s no danger, James is one of us, he’s harmless.”
Over the years he’d been back from the army, Sam was doing better in civilian life. He wasn’t having as many flashbacks, and he had taken up things that made him happy, made him feel the bustle of normal, everyday, safe life for what it was. It didn’t, however, mean that he didn’t fall into a rut sometimes, which meant that sometimes he went days unreachable by his friends, just hiding in his room with all windows and doors closed and locked. It meant sometimes he’d be enjoying a milkshake at Mandy’s and would suddenly blank out, and a simple touch could send him into a combat formation and execution unseeingly.
That’s why Sam had taught his friends early on - when he realised that it was a dangerous problem that wasn’t going away overnight - how to snap him out of his episodes and calm him down.
Maryanne has, unfortunately, had to do it a few times over the course of their friendship, and was handling it right now as well as she did the first time - call it her nurturing instinct.
When he managed to calm down and come back to himself, Sam blinked and found everyone more or less back to doing their own stuff, the man repeatedly bowing to Roxy in apology, and Maryanne’s worried but patient eyes staring at him.
“You back with us, hun?”
Sam swallowed, nodding. Maryanne held out a tentative hand, and Sam took it in reassurance. For both his own and Maryanne’s. She led him to sit, making and then placing a lukewarm, but strong, cup of coffee in front of him, knowing he needed just that to wash down.
Sam huffed and finally focused back to where he physically was when Roxy stopped in front of him with an amused smile. “Sorry about that, love, James is new.”
James took that moment to sidle up next to Roxy, apology written all over his pouty face.
Sam’s heart skipped a beat again.
“I am so sorry, I didn’t mean to break the door and make such noise, I slipped! And,” here, James lifted his left hand, hesitated a moment, and took off the black glove that Sam was only just noticing, and wriggled his metal fingers . “I was a little hard on my landing.”
Sam could feel himself staring, told himself to stop, but knowing he couldn’t.
James stretched out the very same wriggling hand towards Sam. “I’m Bucky.”
Sam managed to close his mouth, and took the offered hand. “Sam. ‘James’...?”
James, no, Bucky shrugged. “Bucky’s a nickname. James Buchanan Barnes.”
Sam was a little warmed at how willing to share with a stranger Bucky was being, and smiled to match Bucky’s grin.
“What kinda name is Buchanan ?”
For a moment, as Bucky’s eyes widened, Sam thought perhaps he’s crossed a line, that that wasn’t something a normal person would say to someone they’d just met . Sam was perhaps too used to introducing himself to men he was prepared to die with; that brought the relationship to a whole other level.
But then Bucky barked a laugh, shaking his head lightly. “It is quite an asshole name, isn’t it.”
A pause, then Sam’s grin came back full-force. “Samuel Thomas Wilson,” he said as repayment.
Bucky’s wide-toothed grin morphed into something smaller, something a little more... dare he say, intimate .
“So, Samuel Thomas Wilson,” Bucky started, his arm sliding across the table top to prop himself up as he leaned towards Sam, metal against vinyl making a soothing sound.
“Wanna learn more about my name - and arm - over dinner tonight?”
Sam was sure that time, that the beat his heart skipped was because of the teasing smirk playing on Bucky’s lips.